Before UFC 100: Tragedy Strikes A Champion

Tonight he fights a giant.  A behemoth of a man.  At 16-0, 6ft 8, 265 lbs Tim Sylvia is enough to intimidate any man.

Alas, rarely does an ordinary man breach the doors of the Octagon.

Frank Mir knows if he can conquer this man something grand indeed will be his reward.

The UFC Heavyweight Championship Belt had no home.  This was UFC 48 Payback, and the strap was up for grabs.  Mir and Sylvia had paid the dues to earn the honor.

Mir made short work of the giant, by putting on a fine display of jiu jitsu.  This clinic resulted in the broken arm of Tim Sylvia with the referee stopping the fight in under a minute.

And the new UFC Heavyweight Champion of the world…Frank Mir!  This victory also sealed the deal on what was Mir’s quest for his black belt in Jiu Jitsu.  The honor was bestowed upon him after the fight.

The road for a champion is never easy, and more often than not trying.  Sometimes a champion must endure a struggle that lies outside of common struggles of most fighters.

At times when we are at our highest, when we feel nothing can stop us from forward movement, life has a way of reminding us how precious that all is.  How fleeting the victories of life can be.   Three months after the pinnacle of Mir’s career tragedy struck the UFC champion.

While riding his motorcycle Mir was struck by another vehicle.  The accident resulted in a devastating injury to Mir’s leg.  With torn knee ligaments, and a femur broken in two places, Mir’s MMA career came to an unforeseen halt.  The UFC had no choice but to strip Mir of his title as he would be unable to defend it.

What does a champion do?  No foe had bested him, no man had taken his will.  His victory and his belt had been ripped from his clutches with no choice or action that could change it.  A true champion knows exactly what to do.  A true champion never intended on holding the belt for a short time and letting it go.  It belonged to him, he had no intentions of letting it go.

This man began a quest that would take him through the valleys of rehabilitation and recovery, to the hills of   remergence, all the way back to the pinnacle of victory.  This was not the last time Frank Mir and the HW belt would meet.

Less than two years after Mir’s devastating accident, he returned to the cage.  Mir was visibly out of shape, and his mobility limited.  This was more than likely due to an early return to the game.  Mir still did not have full range of motion in the leg thus limiting his training capabilities.  Again, a champion crashes through such obstacles and even in defeat Mir marched on.

After losing two of his first three fights Mir had some folks wondering if he was ever going to be the same.  These first three fights were no indicator that he would.  Still, something was bound to change and it did.

This change came in the form of a progressively healthier knee and increasingly more effective training.  This change became more noticeable with every fight, with more spring in his step Mir looked better every time out.

Mir was about to make his charge.  It started with a first round submission of Antoni Hardonk.  This was the Mir many fans remembered.  It seemed after the match that this was the Mir that Frank remembered as well.  He was noticeably encouraged by his performance.

Next Mir became the welcoming committee for rising star Brock Lesnar.  A man Dana White intended on building the future of the division around.  Mir had other plans for Brock.  Again with a first round submission Mir stopped his opponent.  A very crafty knee bar shot Mir right into title contention.

Current champion Randy “The Natural” Couture was in contract dispute with the UFC.  This opened the door for Mir and living legend Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira to face off for the title.  The road led the two through a season as coaches of The Ultimate Fighter.  When they finally met, a most impressive version of Frank Mir showed up.

Mir’s forte in Jiu Jitsu would not win him this battle with the great Nogueira who is a wizard in his own right.  Mir won with crisp accurate striking.  In the 2nd he stopped a historical MMA veteran by TKO.  This man who has fought Fedor Emeliananko three times had never been stopped.  Mir had finally done it and earned his belt back in the process.

That journey that started so long ago had come full circle.  The belt was his again.  Sadly a strange set of circumstances had taken place.  This battle had now become for the interim title, not the undisputed title.

With the return of Couture to  the UFC, the true championship belt came too.  Randy had recently lost that belt to the up and coming Brock Lesnar.  A man Mir had already beaten.  Once Mir won his fight with Nogueira he marched to the side of the cage and told Brock Lesnar “You have my belt!”

Obviously Brock feels differently.  Both had to get through legends to earn their share of the title.  Both are great talents in the sport.  One a veteran one a rising star.  One with victory over the other.

Soon they will sort it out.  Soon these two will meet again in a historical rematch.  This time both of them with claim to the title which only intensifies the match up.  Only one will leave undisputed.  For a man like Mir, a man who never really lost his title to begin with, this must be biggest opportunity of his life.   He finally gets a shot to reclaim what he worked so hard to earn so long ago-his belt.