Leave it to Frank Mir to bluntly answer a question that's been asked ad nauseum. Since the announcement of UFC 146's all-heavyweight main card, many have wondered what exactly it says about us that we seem to care more about MMA's biggest than any other weight class.
The former UFC champ addressed that question on Tuesday at a press conference to promote the event. Using the bantamweight division as an example, Mir said that a lighter weight fighter could be the best at his division, but that doesn't mean he has the total respect of everyone watching. Human nature being what it is, some will inevitably walk away with a twinge of doubt.
"I think a lot of people, when they're watching the fights, in the back of their mind, they kind of feel like, 'I'm 220. Even though he knows how to fight, I can probably kick his ass,'" Mir said. "We’re the heavyweights. If you’re thinking that, you’re stupid."
As a result, you have relevant fights that are likely to capture the public's attention. From the estimation of UFC president Dana White, it's the strongest division the promotion has ever boasted. In fact, he said, it may even come close to equaling PRIDE at its best.
"Their heavyweight division was awesome," he said. "That's where a lot of legends were built, over there. Absolutely, I think that's where our heavyweight division is finally getting, and the division has been great and stacked for a few years now."
UFC 146's 10 fights feature 2,539.5 pounds of heavyweight monster, those numbers coming at last count of the most recent weigh-ins. While the event booking might be seen as an advertising gimmick, it's at least a good one, with a championship on the line as well as a near-certain reshuffling of the top 10 based upon the night's outcomes.
But what does it say about the future of the UFC's biggest weight class that the smallest of the 10 heavyweights scheduled to populate the main card is the division's champion?
Two-hundred-thirty-nine pound Junior Dos Santos reigns over the land formerly controlled by giants like Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin, who threatened to run the lighter, more agile fighters out of the division. At least for now. The rest of the story will be told on May 26, when the MGM Grand reinforces its famous buffet for the event's arrival.
The night's key matchups will no doubt rock the boat one way or the other. Aside from Dos Santos' first title defense against Alistair Overeem, Mir faces Cain Velasquez in the former champ's first fight back since losing his belt.
Velasquez admitted that his defeat was the first time he'd suffered a loss in competition since wrestling in the NCAA collegiate championship tournament way back in 2006. That means he's been living in a foreign world for the last few months, attempting to rebound into the win column rather than continuing on the momentum he had built for himself.
To hear him tell it, he's been able to draw upon those experiences to help him move forward after this more recent setback.
"It's not difficult, no," he said. "I love what I do. In wrestling, you have a loss, it's not the end of world. You have to come back stronger, be healthy, watch film and see what you did wrong. Learn from your mistakes. You can't dwell on that kind of stuff. You have to move forward and try to get better."
That's the same thing the UFC did with its biggest division, which went through some lean times a few years ago. In the years since, talent has been added, most recently bolstered by the arrival of the Strikeforce heavyweights. It's an improvement that's been welcome by even the old guard. As Mir explained, it's for the benefit of all.
"Back in the day, the fights got spread out a bit farther because there wasn't as many guys to match up against. Anytime you're trying make a run towards the title, the worst thing in the world is to get an opponent, that when you tell people you're fighting him, they ask who that is. At least now, we don't have that issue. Almost everyone in the top 10 of the UFC is a household name, recognizable, and that makes it much more pleasurable to train and fight. There’s always a risk when you walk in the octagon, I’d rather take that risk against someone who's considered dangerous than take that risk against an unknown."