Take a moment to really take a look back at some of the early days of the UFC. Now, think about the present day.
Very few fighters from that earliest of eras in the sport are still active today, at least in the UFC. Tito Ortiz, Ken Shamrock, Royce Gracie, Wanderlei Silva and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson are all competing in Bellator, but who remains in the UFC? Well, there is one man who has stuck through thick and thin. His name?
On Saturday — or Sunday, if you live in Australia — Mir will compete in his 26th UFC bout. No, that was not a typo. Two-six. 26.
Mir has literally fought all but two of his bouts — his 2001 debut win over Jerome Smith in HOOKnSHOOT and his sophomore victory over Dan Quinn under the International Fighting Championship banner — inside the Octagon. It certainly hasn’t been an easy road, but with Mir’s recent resurgence, one must ask what is next for the former UFC champion.
Quite simply put, the answer is not retirement. Mir hit the worst skid of his entire career, dropping four straight bouts from 2012-14 to the likes of Junior dos Santos, Josh Barnett, Daniel Cormier, and Alistair Overeem. It looked to be the end of his storied career. But in a shocking turn of events, Mir went on to record the first back-to-back TKO victories of his career, taking out Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Todd Duffee. In his most recent bout, Mir was on the losing end of a fight that was 10 years in the making against Andrei Arlovski. It was a fight that many thought the former champion had won. That’s in the past, though, and now Mir faces another staple in the UFC heavyweight division: “The Super Samoan” Mark Hunt.
Mir, in the minds of many, is still in a must-win situation when he takes on Hunt, who is 2-2-1 in his last five bouts and is riding on the heels of his own TKO victory over the aforementioned Bigfoot Silva.
It’s a fight that really could go anywhere, considering the knockout power and endurance of Hunt and the always dangerous ground game of Mir, not to mention his own ever-improving stand-up.
So, in the event that Mir is victorious, where does that put him in this division?
Limbo, that’s where.
Take a look at the UFC’s top 10 heavyweights and you’ll find a group of foes that Mir has already faced and taken losses against: Overeem, dos Santos, Arlovski and Barnett. Currently, Hunt sits one spot above Mir in the rankings, so a win for Mir would elevate the former champ ever so slightly. The rest of the division is pretty booked up. Cain Velasquez takes on Travis Browne at UFC 200, Ben Rothwell is set to take on dos Santos at UFC Fight Night 86, and Stipe Miocic will be gunning for the heavyweight title against current champion Fabricio Werdum. That really leaves Mir with three possible match-ups: Overeem, Arlovski or Barnett. All of these bouts would give Mir a chance at redemption.
Mir seems to have found new life in a division that he has been a part of since 2001. He may be coming off a loss, but it was a learning experience, even for someone with Mir’s extensive fighting history and legacy. The UFC has kept Mir around and put a lot of faith into a fighter that many believed to be on his way out, not only when he was involved in his nearly career-ending motorcycle accident but also when he dropped four straight fights. Keep in mind that only one other fighter, Dan Hardy, had ever lost four straight bouts and not been cut by the UFC.
Mir has a chance to prove that he still maintains claim to a title that was never truly lost. He has a chance to prove he can still compete with the elite in the division and shock the world once again. On the other side, Hunt has the chance to derail Mir’s hopes of becoming UFC heavyweight champion again and crush his dreams, this time possibly for good.