Instead, Mir will take on PRIDE legend Mirko Cro Cop (27-7-2) in the September 25 main event bout in Indianapolis. It’s quite a change in styles, going from a fellow grappling ace in Nogueira to a dangerous kickboxer such as Cro Cop, but Mir said that facing a new opponent has actually provided extra motivation.
“Once I heard about that challenge, regardless about what people say about his notoriety in America, I know who he is,” Mir said Wednesday during a UFC media call.
Mir had some interest in the rematch with Nogueira after news came from Nogueira’s camp that he had been suffering from a staph infection going into the bout with Mir. However, Mir said that facing someone he already defeated seemed like a lose-lose proposition.
“It’s still something I’ve already done,” Mir said. “People are going to say, “’Oh, you’re slipping’” unless I knock Nogueira down several times and beat him thoroughly.
Now that Mir is facing Cro Cop, he has brought in other polished strikers to spar and get him ready for the Croation kickboxer, including another longtime PRIDE fighter, Gilbert Yvel. And despite the recent TKO loss to Shane Carwin at UFC 111, Mir still has confidence in his striking.
“That [loss] I actually attribute more to wrestling,” Mir said of the Carwin fight. “And that’s one aspect of my game overall I’ve tried to improve the most.”
Mir also admitted that he fell into the habit of trying to build up his strength and size to compete with the UFC’s rising crop of behemoth wrestlers. Now he’s getting back to his roots and focusing on increasing his speed and movement.
Mir said he realized getting bigger “wasn’t an advantage, and [there were times that I was] standing still when maybe I should be moving.”
Although Mir should have a significant advantage on the ground, he isn’t discounting Cro Cop’s ability to defend submissions.
“He understands his strengths and his weaknesses,” Mir said.
If he the fight does go to the ground, Cro Cop will likely play it safe, Mir said. “That mindset is actually very difficult to deal with.”
Breaking down Lesnar vs. Velasquez
Another big heavyweight showdown will come at UFC 121 on October 23 in Anaheim, Calif., when current titleholder Brock Lesnar faces top contender Cain Velasquez. Although Mir and Lesnar have had their run-ins, Mir has gained quite a bit of respect for Lesnar since his come-from-behind win over Carwin at UFC 116 and gave his thoughts on the upcoming title fight.
While Mir respects Velasquez’s skill, “The size of Brock could wear on him over 25 minutes,” he said. “If you go in there to try and outwrestle Brock and not get tired … if he does, I’ll be sitting there taking notes.”
Mir added, “I know [Velasquez’s] conditioning is phenomenal, but we’re all human.”