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Frank Mir wants to tackle bullying with ‘Fight For The Forgotten’ organization

Frank Mir (pictured) fights Roy Nelson in the heavyweight main event of Bellator 231 in Uncasville, Conn., on Friday
Bellator MMA

Frank Mir has been in every kind of fight.

All-American wrestlers. Brazilian jiu-jitsu aces. World champion kickboxers. Mir has faced them all and while he hasn’t always left these confrontations unscathed, he’s learned from them; more importantly, he’s still standing.

The 40-year-old heavyweight makes his first appearance of 2019 when he faces Roy Nelson on Friday in the main event of Bellator 231, a rematch of their UFC 130 encounter from May 2011 that Mir won by unanimous decision. Mir has expressed his reservations about facing Nelson again, though not out of any disregard for Nelson’s skills. It’s simply a matchup that by Mir’s own admission could end up being an uneventful encounter.

Besides, there are other challenges piquing Mir’s interest at this stage of his life. Recently, Mir announced that he was joining the Fight for the Forgotten team, a humanitarian organization founded by veteran heavyweight Justin Wren.

Mir spoke to MMA Fighting about how he became involved with the charity and his plan to focus on its anti-bullying initiatives.

“I’ve known Justin Wren for a while, training with him back when he did The Ultimate Fighter. He was in town, he came to the gym, we got to spar and move together, his head-and-arm was better than mine, so we worked together,” Mir said. “When I’d seen what he was doing and I was just paying attention over the years and just kept casually in touch—A lot of people talk or they’ll donate money, but time is the most valuable commodity that we have. And for this guy to give up years of his life—he doesn’t call it giving up—but I think most people consider that a pretty huge sacrifice to relocate countries and dedicate your life to helping others in need. People talk a fancy talk, but this guy really walks it.

“Basically, my social media standing and where my presence is, what I can do for the company is just bring more attention and bring more eyes and ears on the subject and hopefully bring other people that are just as good-spirited as Justin Wren together.”

Wren, who has earned the nickname “The Big Pygmy” from his ongoing work with the impoverished Pygmy community in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has focused much of Fight for the Forgotten’s domestic efforts on battling the problem of bullying that plagues much of North America’s youth. It’s an issue that hits home for Mir, a father of four.

For Mir, bullying isn’t simply a matter of good vs. evil, nice kids vs. bad kids; rather, he believes the nature of bullying needs to be confronted rather than just trying to wish the problem out of existence.

“Bullying is actually a very sensitive topic, because in one instance we want it to be zero. But I feel like it’s the unhealthy bullying that sometimes comes from a negative place that really is what causes a lot of emotional scarring,” Mir said. “My kids are all athletes, they play sports, so there’s a certain amount of rib-nudging and playing with people that sometimes people can misidentify as bullying, so I’ve really tried to keep my finger on the pulse so that way when my kids deal with adversity I can be like, alright, that’s just playful banter coming from a friend from a good place. Or the same words can come from somebody that I’m like, well, that’s actually coming from a bad place and this person doesn’t have the best intentions for you and they’re jealous or angry or envious or dealing with hardships of their own family and then I take it a step further with my kids whenever they’ve dealt with that.

“If a person’s a bully, there’s something wrong with them too. There’s a pain that they’re lashing out with. Instead of just having the mentality that you teach your kids ‘You don’t take nothing from nobody, punch them in the face,’ I’m very much like, well why don’t you talk to the person that has the issue, that’s being a bully. Find out what’s wrong with them. Really address the issue and get to the root of it.”

When Mir talks about his own story, he describes it as one of facing adversity head on and how doing so has made him “a much better person.” He debuted in the UFC at age 22, was a world champion by 25, and a former world champion by 26 after a motorcycle accident left him unable to defend his UFC title.

After returning from injury in 2006, he went on to face virtually every notable heavyweight of his generation, including Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin, Mirko Cro Cop, Daniel Cormier, Junior dos Santos, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett, Andrei Arlovski, Mark Hunt, and Fedor Emelianenko.

Suffice to say, Mir doesn’t have anything left to prove from a competitive standpoint, and being comfortable with this knowledge is what he feels will aid him in communicating an anti-bullying message.

Frank Mir (red gloves) grapples with Javy Ayala (blue gloves) at Bellator 212 in Honolulu on Dec. 14, 2018
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

“I think the bullying thing is actually one of the easiest ones for me to address because I think children will listen to me,” Mir said. “Just because of the fact of me being a martial artist, a fighter, when I sit there and talk about how I don’t use violence to solve my issues, I’m very much an intellectual, I think it has more standing. You always see the guys who go, ‘Walk away from a fight,’ and people look at him and go, ‘You’re not really a fighter anyways. Are you walking away because you’re strong or because of your cowardice?’

“At least my situation I can be like, look, I avoid physical confrontations, obviously not because I have an issue with physical violence, but I try to see the bigger picture of what it takes for humans to coincide with each other. We’re all the same race.”

There’s an eagerness in Mir’s voice when discussing how he can further commit to Fight for the Forgotten, though he’s not ready to move on to full-time charitable work just yet. When the topic of retirement is broached, Mir says he’s actually been encouraged by parts of his performances despite what the results might say (Mir has won just two of his last 10 fights dating back to May 2012) and he pointed to a lack of preparation in certain areas as being responsible for his setbacks.

He’s rededicated himself to jiu-jitsu, the art that made him a UFC champion, and is waiting for the day when he does everything right leading up to a fight and it’s still not enough. That’s when he’ll know it’s time to walk away.

“I think when I retire is when I go out there and go, man I just cannot—Me, not performing on the ground last fight wasn’t because of my age or anything, it was because of a lack of rounds of keeping up a perishable skill,” Mir said. “Now I’m back in the gym, I can line guys up that are really good black belts and now I’m working through people again like my old self. People scream when I’m rolling with them because of how quickly I can snatch things up. That wasn’t the case before the Javy (Ayala) fight. My one training partner James goes, ‘You probably trained for about a total of five minutes in the last two months on the ground. You only box or kickbox.’ And it showed in the fight.

“I think the day of retirement will come when I go out there and do everything I was supposed to do and I still can’t perform. I’m going out there and I’m a danger to myself, then it stresses your family out. I don’t want them to have to be the one to come tell me, ‘Hey, you performing at the top of your sport is no longer feasible. Biology has set its course.’”

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