Wife's words broke Mir down, built him back up
Say this on the front page of MSN.com. Good article here on Mir. I also thought his career was over after losing to Vera.
Wife's words broke Mir down, built him back up
by Mark Kriegel
LAS VEGAS - On the night of Nov. 18, 2006, in a hotel room in Sacramento, Calif., just hours removed from a humiliating knockout at the hands of one Brandon Vera, Frank Mir announced his retirement.
"Never going to fight again," he said. "Whatever I had, I don't have anymore."
Two years had passed since Mir found himself on the receiving end of a motorcycle wreck. His femur had been broken in two places, and his knee all but ruined. The first doctor told him his career as professional fighter was over. A second orthopedist concurred.
Actually, Mir was able to make a comeback of sorts. But the knee was still gimpy when somebody named Marcio Cruz knocked him out in the first round, opening a gruesome, half-moon shaped laceration below his eye. Then he got fat for a lackluster decision over another world-beater, Dan Christison. Next, Vera — "a guy that shouldn't even have been a heavyweight," Mir would recall — put him away in 69 seconds. He had been in good shape for Vera, though. The knee was fine. Now he was out of excuses.
"It is what it is," he said, waiting for his wife to agree.
Jennifer Mir understood, of course, having lived for the better part of two years with her husband's depression and doubt. "So many people," she recalled, "were telling him he didn't have it anymore."
But she refused to count herself among them. And she refused to give him what he wanted, which is to say, an easy way out.
Frank and Jennifer had met some years before at their place of employment, the Spearmint Rhino, one of those euphemistically labeled "gentlemen's clubs" where he worked as the head bouncer. Now they had three kids of their own, including a son Frank adopted from Jennifer's previous relationship. They had built something good. But a fighter who cannot fight does not make for domestic tranquility. With Frank talking retirement, Jennifer knew the marriage was at a crossroads. Worse than that, they were looking at a lifetime of regret.
You can quit, no problem, she told him. It's not like he owed her an explanation. "You only have to answer to your children," she said. "Look how they would see you right now. ... Could you explain it to them?"
Just like that, Jennifer Mir became Standup Wife of the Year.
And Frank embarked on another kind of comeback.
"An ultimate breakdown," he says, referring to that night. "I always thought I was mentally strong. Then I found out I wasn't."
Mir recalls watching the early UFC events with his father — a Kenpo karate instructor in Vegas — and being mesmerized. But Frank was more than a fan, he was a talent. Karate and jiujitsu, striking and grappling, they all came easy to him. He was a state wrestling champ and later a UFC phenom, famously snapping Tim Sylvia's arm to win the heavyweight championship in his ninth pro fight in 2004.
"My first couple of fights in the UFC came too easy," he said. "I was a front-runner, very much of a bully."
In other words, he had no aptitude for adversity. But the accident, combined with his wife's wise words — "she pretty much came to my rescue," he says — taught him a new way.
"Humility," he says, the remnants of a black eye still visible just days before UFC 100, and his much-anticipated main event with Brock Lesnar.
Problem was, humility had never been Mir's strong suit: "You start knocking guys out in 30 seconds once a month, and then somebody stands up to you. How do you deal with that? Especially in the gym, where everybody's deathly afraid of you?"
He was just beginning to understand: The aura of invincibility had been holding him back. In order to learn, he had to get his ass kicked. Now he walks around with black eyes. His wife and kids see him getting choked out regularly. His weakest skills are those he practices most relentlessly. He anticipates and trains for the worst sort of adversity.
Certainly, it paid off in his first fight with Lesnar, 17 months ago. Lesnar was bigger and stronger and a harder hitter, but Mir was the more resilient and resourceful martial artist, submitting the former pro wrestler with a knee lock. "No matter how bad the beating became, I never thought about anything but trying to finish him," says Mir. "No matter how many punches he landed, I kept going for submissions. I wasn't looking for an out."
Lesnar, he says, reminds him of the fighter he used to be: the front-runner, the bully, the aggressor.
I think this rematch goes pretty much the same way, just longer. I say Mir by submission in the second round. But maybe that's only because I like his story.
Frank and Jennifer had a baby boy last month. But then so did Lesnar and his wife.
So here's my real hope for Saturday night: that each man can one day explain it to his son.