“Roy is a tough guy and I haven't really looked beyond it,” says Mir, 14-5 in his mixed martial arts career. “I think anyone that looks past him ends up having a rough night.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir is well aware that in order to once again reclaim his position at the top of the pile, he must first cut through the challenge of fellow contender and good friend Roy 'Big Country' Nelson on May 28 in Las Vegas. Grappling standouts Mir and Nelson collide at UFC 130 and, though neither will admit to looking past the immediate challenge, both heavyweights maintain title aspirations at this advanced stage in their respective careers. “Roy is a tough guy and I haven't really looked beyond it,” says Mir, 14-5 in his mixed martial arts career. “I think anyone that looks past him ends up having a rough night. “At first I kind of struggled with (fighting a friend) a little bit mentally, but I'm sure Roy, honestly, hits more people in training than he does in fights. All the people I train with I have dinner with and play videos game with afterwards. So these are my friends and I hit them a lot harder and more often in practice than I do my opponents.” The close relationship shared by both Mir and Nelson owes a lot to the grappling match they put on at Grappler's Quest 2003, where 'Big Country' walked away with a narrow victory and the pair discovered a newfound respect for one another. “The (grappling) match happened and it stood for something at the time and showed Roy was better than I was at jiu-jitsu and grappling,” admits Mir. “I don't think I'd use it too much as a measure anymore just because I know that he's a different fighter and I've also improved. And now there's also punches. It could have been worse for me in that match if he was allowed to punch me, as he was on top of me quite a bit.” Improvements are a given, of course, and both Mir and Nelson now stand as two of the premier heavyweight contenders in the UFC. Despite losing two of his last four bouts, Mir appeared back to his best last September, when he dominated and chopped down Croatian legend Mirko Cro Cop in the third and final round. Keen to build on momentum gained from that victory, Mir now looks to construct a lengthy run of positive results.”Obviously I listen to the criticism, because I know that if I am not selling fights it is going to affect match-ups and pay-days for me in the future,” says Mir. “At the same time though, I am always balancing it, because no matter how excitingly I lose a fight, winning is still paramount. Obviously, if I can win excitingly and can see the opportunity to make the fight exciting, I'll take it, but not at the cost of losing the fight. “Some of the guys in the UFC are really tough and not every day is your best day. We are always trying to become better martial artists and fighters, but, at the end of the day, there is somebody else in the cage who is trying to do exactly the same thing as you.” Should Mir gain revenge on Nelson and stretch his unbeaten run to two, we could see the re-emergence of the southpaw Vegas-native in the title picture. A UFC title clash with new champion Cain Velasquez might be a little way off yet, but a winner-takes-all elimination bout with Junior Dos Santos (set to fight Shane Carwin on June 11) could be just the ticket for Mir. “I just think I'd match up well with Dos Santos,” admits Frank. “He's a very good boxer and he's got excellent hands, but I just think sometimes he falls into the pattern of boxing and not utilizing his wrestling and jiu-jitsu and all the other skills.”