Mir suffered a 48-second knockout loss to Emelianenko last Saturday at Bellator 198 in a quarterfinal matchup of Bellator’s heavyweight grand prix. The bout marked Mir’s return from a two-year layoff following a suspension by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, and it was a roller-coaster affair.
Mir dropped Emelianenko with punches in the opening seconds but the Russian legend recovered then hip-tossed Mir to the canvas. Emelianenko ultimately finished Mir with strikes later in the round, but that throw, Mir said, is what prompted the beginning of the end.
“That kinda hurt my ego,” Mir explained on his podcast Phone Booth Fighting. “I gotta admit, it embarrassed me to get tossed through the air like that. So when we got up, I kinda went into street fighter mode. I just started throwing left hand after left hand instead of setting up my strikes and being composed, which, two years since I’ve competed seriously, my composure was not what it should’ve been. That’s probably where the most ring rust came into it, is once I got into a firefight. I just got emotional instead of staying strategic.”
Mir and Emelianenko quickly rose their feet after the throw and started trading bombs, leading Emelianenko to catch a hard-charging Mir with a nasty right hand that dropped the former UFC heavyweight champion to the mat. Emelianenko followed Mir to the canvas and unloaded a series of left hands that forced referee Mike Beltran to intervene, giving Emelianenko his first win since 2016 and sending Mir to a three-fight losing skid.
“I lost my cool. I let my ego dictate how I fought,” Mir said. “Before that, I’m pretty good at being very emotionless and not trying to let that enter it. But once I got thrown through the air, and it was such a highlight-reel kind of throw, my ego was very injured. It wasn’t like the throw hurt me. It didn’t even really score that much for him. I mean, at that point, if I just would’ve calmed down, I’m still winning the fight that short in because I dropped him. They judge on effective damage, so if the fight had stopped at that moment, I’m still winning on the judges’ scorecards, even with that throw.
“But because I was pissed off that I got thrown through the air, all of a sudden I just went for the kill instead of trying to fight like a martial artist. I fought like a street fighter, and that didn’t fair so well.”
Mir, 38, also spoke to confusion surrounding the rule set in Illinois at Bellator 198. The longtime veteran said that he trained and prepared for the new unified rules of MMA, which allow for knees to the head of a downed opponent in specific instances. He was then told when he arrived for fight week that Illinois had not adopted the new rule set, only to have the rule set flip on him once again on Saturday night when Beltran informed him that Illinois had indeed adopted the new unified rules of MMA.
Lamenting hesitation he showed in potentially kneeing Emelianenko in the head after his early knockdown, Mir admitted he that “overestimated my ability to make that adjustment” in the heat of the moment.
The former UFC heavyweight champion is undeterred though. After languishing on the sidelines for over two years, Mir said he hopes to return to action soon. He explained that he intends to “go back to my roots” and focus on reincorporating his vaunted grappling arsenal into his game with the help of jiu-jitsu black belt Robert Drysdale, and he’s looking to return this summer with ACB, the Russian promotion with which Mir works as a color commentator.
Mir said a return to the Bellator cage is also in his plans, but that likely won’t happen until the end of the year.
“They’re talking about October,” Mir said. “I’m like, OK, that’s cool. I would like to get a fight in with ACB before that so I can just get more time clocked under me, so I can get my timing back on for fighting. There’s nothing like it. We can train as much as you want, but there’s nothing like the real thing. I’ve had 40 seconds in the last two years, so I need some more time, some more rounds.
“Hopefully the next fight up, honestly, I’ll probably not take someone as dangerous as Fedor, get my feet a little bit more underneath me,” Mir added. “And then hopefully Fedor, if he goes through and has success and wins the tournament, maybe I can be his first title defense if I’ve strung together some wins.”
Mir explained that his Bellator contract allows for him to take additional fights in ACB “as long as Bellator gives their blessing.”
“Obviously they have in a clause where they can say no, but pretty much I was given verbal assurances that would never be the case unless it were to interfere with their show,” Mir said. “For example, me still being in this tournament would hurt my abilities to go over there and fight. So I guess the silver lining to the dark cloud is the fact that I wasn’t successful on Saturday, but I’ll just get more fights this year.”