Monday, March 26, 2007

The Shooters Paradise - Inside MMA In Las Vegas

By Mike Sawyer

It was my typical morning. I was making my rounds checking out the various websites and pulled up one of my favorites and noticed that there was a story covering the WEC show that happened Saturday night here in town. What really struck my eye wasn't the fact that Faber and Condit won their fights, but who was doing the interviews for the show, former UFC Heavyweight champion Frank Mir. Mir, who pretty much dropped out of site since the Brandon Vera beating, has had a rocky three years since his motorcycle accident that pretty much ended his MMA career. What a sad story really. All the potential in the world. Keep in mind Frank only turns 28 this year.

Francisco Santos Mir III was born on May 24, 1979. He grew up in Las Vegas and is a graduate of Bonanza High School, class of 1998. That year, he won the state wrestling title in the Heavyweight Division. He met Joe Silva (UFC matchmaker) at the school, who encouraged Frank to get into MMA.

Frank made his MMA debut on July 14, 2001 against Jerome Smith. He won that fight on a decision and then picked up another victory against Dan Quinn on August 31, 2001, that he won via a triangle choke. At this point, Frank was training out of the Las Vegas Combat Club with Ricardo Perez, who practically adopted Frank as his own son.

He made his UFC debut on November 2, 2001 against Roberto Travern. This would really test Frank as Travern was a black belt in BJJ. Frank scored an impressive victory over Travern with a nice arm bar and all the talk was on the 22 year old kid from Vegas. He picked up more wins over Tank Abbott, Pete Williams and a couple against Wes Sims. He was now ready for a shot at the UFC Heavyweight title, which was the property of Tim Sylvia.

It took Mir less than a minute to secure an arm bar and break Tim Sylvia's arm to win the fight by technical submission. Frank's stock in the UFC was at an all-time high and at age of 25, was the new poster boy for the UFC. The local boy made good.

He then went out and got a job working as a floor host/security at the Spearmint Rhino. Frank went on full-time with the club, working first on the main floor, until one night when a guy came into the club and saw him, recognized him, and decided it would be fun to "sucker punch" the UFC champion in the face. He did and actually made it out of the club alive. Frank went to management and asked if he could work the back door of the club, where it would be a bit "safer", and they agreed. The money was awesome for Frank. A floor host at that club regularly will make around $750 a shift in tips. When you throw in the obvious "perks" that go along with working in a strip club, this was a fantastic gig. He was making anywhere from $3,500- $4,5000 A WEEK!

Unfortunately, things began to unravel during this period. He began to miss his training sessions with Ricardo on a regular basis. Soon after, he dropped Ricardo Perez as his trainer and joined forces with Marc Laimon. Some reports have it that Frank owed his "adopted" dad money, and they left on bad terms. He also began to really like his job and soon was enjoying the night life of Vegas on a nightly basis. Not good for as MMA champion. It was only a matter of time before it would catch up to him.

It did on September 17, 2004. Frank was riding his motorcycle, when he was hit by a car. He was thrown a reported 50 feet and broke his femur bone in two places. It was first thought that he would never fight again (some say he still hasn't). It should also be pointed out that Dana White took really good care of him, paying his hospital bills and treating him and his family like gold.

Mir made his return on February 4, 2006 against Marcio Cruz. Frank, who looked like a jacked up bodybuilder, weighed in at a solid 250. Unfortunately, he gassed in the opening seconds attempting a Kimura from the bottom and was pounded by Cruz. His next fight was against Dan Christison. His fans were stunned. Mir looked like a fat piece of shit. He later said, " I really figured that I could eat bad, because I was training so hard and figured I would lose the weight". He did neither. His training consisted of him bringing his family and friends, showing up only one time day of his scheduled three a day workouts, taking pictures in the cage and parting up a storm all over town. It showed. He went the distance with Christison in what many considered an embarrassing showing. He gassed early on and spent the better part of the fight laying like a whale on top if his opponent. If it was anybody else, he would have had his ass handed to him. Well, somebody else was about to come calling.

He fought Brandon Vera at UFC 65, in a fight many were looking forward to. Vera, despite being a favorite, gave Frank much respect and was visibly nervous going into the fight. He shouldn't have been. He destroyed Mir with a punch and followed it up with some knees and put Mir in the same position he was in against Cruz, on his back covering up and not fighting back. The fight was stopped. Mir looked like shit again and fought with no heart. His fighting days appeared to be over, at least in the UFC anyways.

He was scheduled to fight Antoni Hardonk on the April 5 show here at the Palms, but pulled out claiming a shoulder injury and hasn't been heard of since (he hasn't updated his web site since October 13, 2006). That was until he made his appearance over the weekend here at the WEC event, serving as an interviewer for the show. Sad really. As a fan of the former champion, I still have it in the back of mind that the "old" Mir will come back someday. I'm losing faith. Maybe it's for the better. He is now married with three kids and probably shouldn't put himself into a position where the kids may lose their daddy. He still has the Rhino and his new gig with WEC. I wish him well....

OTHER TIDBITS: Things are getting interesting with the UFC/Pride soap opera. One thing is for sure and that is the UFC will have some ownership in the company. They will announce a new "figurehead", who is going to be from Tokai TV, which is where Sakakibara came from. He will be used as a "front man" for this whole thing. This way Saki can still have power, be out of the equation and get back on Fuji TV. It will be presented in Japan like a "merger", because if it comes out that a U.S company owns Pride, it would die in Japan. I'm expecting this announcement shortly...


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