Just because Frank Mir apologized, that doesn't necessarily mean he's sorry. It doesn't even mean that he knows precisely what he's supposed to be sorry for. Sure, he may have told a California radio station that he hates UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar and would like to "break his neck," making him "the first person that dies to Octagon-related injuries," but he's not convinced that the comment is really so incendiary, or even all that novel.
"When I got called in and they told me, 'Listen man, this is an issue,' I kind of had a smirk on my face the whole time," says Mir, who was quoted in a public apology for the remark on the UFC's Web site earlier this week. "I was like, you're kidding, right? This is a joke, right? I've heard people say that this is to the death. I've heard people say about an opponent, 'I'm going to kill him.' I heard Brock say he was going to put his hand up my rear end to pull out a horseshoe. I didn't hear anyone get too upset about that."
The man has a point. As uncomfortable as any comment about Octagon-related deaths might make some MMA fans who are already paranoid about the mainstream perception of the sport, Mir isn't the first prominent fighter to walk that road. Lightweight champ B.J. Penn has threatened to kill opponents before, or at the very least fight them until someone dies. Former light heavyweight champ Chuck Liddell recently expressed a desire to end Tito Ortiz's life when they meet for a third time, and that prompted no outrage.
In fact, in an interview prior to their rematch at UFC 100, Lesnar was quoted as saying that he was eager to "murder" Mir. What, exactly, is the difference between the two remarks, except that Mir was more specific with regards to method?
"No one's been able to explain it to me yet," Mir says. "I thought we understood that what we say on camera is part of the entertainment aspect of our sport and we kind of get a little artistic license. It's not like I said this to my neighbor, that if his dog shows up in my yard one more time I'm going to kill him. That would be bad. That's a problem. I didn't understand it, but hey, it came my way, I said it, and I can't cry about it now. I've just got to deal with it, I guess."
Dealing with it meant putting his name on the apology put forth by the UFC, which included an assurance from UFC president Dana White that Mir had "been talked to" and now "regrets what he said." That turns out to be about half true. If there's one thing Mir doesn't seem to regret lately, it's speaking his mind. Even when it brings criticism, the former UFC heavyweight champ is going to tell you what he really thinks.
Take his comments about Cheick Kongo before they met at UFC 107. Mir called Kongo's ground game one of the worst in the UFC's heavyweight class. When that drew heat from some fans, Mir refused to back away from the remark. He believed it, so why apologize for saying it?
"Any time you try to play to what you think people want you to be like, you're setting yourself up for disappointment," Mir says. "Some people are still going to hate you and some people are still going to like you, but if you're not even saying what you really think then they aren't even liking you for who you really are. If someone asks me a question, at least they can know that the answer I give is what I really think. Then, if they dislike me, at least they're disliking who I really am because I really did say that."
The same is true with the Lesnar situation, though Mir feels the need to point out, he doesn't literally want to kill Lesnar. No more than Penn wanted to kill Georges St. Pierre, anyway. The excessive rhetoric, that's just his way of getting a point across, he says.
If nothing else, the situation helps to illuminate the ways in which Lesnar has become Mir's white whale. With their series knotted at one win apiece, getting a rubber match has become almost an obsession with Mir, who said he became despondent upon hearing rumors that Lesnar's illness might end his fighting career before they ever got to meet again.
Even if Lesnar weren't the champ, Mir says, he'd be just as focused on getting a third fight with him. But that doesn't mean Mir is overlooking Shane Carwin, who he'll be facing on Mar. 27 for the interim heavyweight championship. On the contrary, since the winner is tentatively scheduled to get the next shot at Lesnar, defeating Carwin is vital to his long-term plans.
"We all have our reasons for why we do things," Mir said. "It's like a guy trying to become the champion. It's not that his dream of becoming a champion is distracting him from the fight in front of him. It's just that those goals are part of his motivation. It's one more reason to go to the gym. For me, my goal of fighting Brock Lesnar again isn't distracting me, because I know I have to beat Shane Carwin and really beat him to get that third match with Brock. It's not that I'm not thinking about Shane, because I am. I'm also thinking about all the things that will come with that victory."
One of those things may be the chance to write the final chapter in his saga with Lesnar, but with that comes the possibility that the current champ may hold him to account for his words in painful and embarrassing fashion. To Mir, that's the beauty of being in the fight business. Opponents might not like what he has to say, whether he believes it to be true or not, but it's of little consequence once the cage door slams shut.
"If he thinks I'm wrong," says Mir, "he can prove it to me."