I’m less than two weeks away from a rematch with MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo (Minotauro) Nogueira. I fight him in the co-main event of UFC 140 in Toronto on Dec. 10. I’ve been asked if I want to “prove” whether my second-round TKO of Big Nog was legitimate or not, but, quite honestly, there’s nothing to prove there.
I won the last fight, which took place three years ago in Las Vegas, because I was the better fighter on the night. After the fight there were all sorts of excuses that Nog was hurt, that he had a staph infection but I personally don’t think his staph infection played much part in the fight itself, or the result at the end of it all.
I think I would have beaten him in the exact same manner, TKO in a couple of rounds, staph infection or not. Maybe without the problem he could have increased his pace and tempo a little bit more, but, in hindsight, we really didn’t fight that type of fight anyway. He fought a very calm and calculated type of fight and he looked to pick me apart with single shots from range.
If we’d started having a hard grappling match and Nogueira backed off or refused to engage then, yes, it could have attributed the win to him not being 100 per cent on the night. I could have looked at that scenario and said, “Yeah, Nogueira wasn’t really Nogueira tonight.”
As it turned out, though, that didn’t happen at all and I don’t feel there’s any reason I need to “prove” anything regarding that result.
Me punching him in the chin repeatedly had nothing to do with a staph infection, believe me. I could be sick as hell going into a fight, but I still remember and can perform the necessary techniques to get me out of trouble. The problem is, you can’t keep repeating those techniques over a length of time, as you have nothing much in the tank. Nogueira lost that fight because my striking technique was better than his and that could be the reason he loses this rematch, too.
I am already a two-time UFC champion but what drives me at this stage in my career is the need to achieve all I can achieve before my career is up. I don’t want to be one of those guys looking back at my career with regret. I know what I am capable of as a fighter, and I know what I should be achieving in 2011 and beyond.
Even at 32, and with everything I’ve been through, I’m not at the stage where I’m about to give half efforts or take my foot off the gas in any way, shape or form. I still have as much hunger now, if not more, than I did when I was a young kid starting out in the sport of mixed martial arts.
I know that I am capable of becoming even better than I am right now, and that excites me on a daily basis. Each day I leave the gym, I come away thinking I’ve improved and developed my game. I will keep on fighting for as long as I keep experiencing that feeling.
The actual concept of training is still something I enjoy very much, and that is important for a fighter at this advanced stage in my career. I’m a lot smarter with my training now than I was back in the old days, as I no longer feel like I have to prove anything in the gym.
For example, if one day my back is feeling tight and I’m due to wrestle, I might take a rain-check or do something else. I know my body better now and know what it can and can’t do. A few years ago, I might have pushed on through that pain and only ended up further damaging my body. I would always look to prove myself in the gym, prove that I was tough, prove that I could take it, and, ultimately, that isn’t always a good thing. You only end up hurting yourself in the long run with that mentality.
Fighters all go through the same aches and pains in training, and it’s important to know how to deal with them. Three or four weeks out from a fight, you will hit a wall and start to feel it. My body always starts to feel like bubblegum at around that time. I’ll even have my trainers or sparring partners drive my car for me after a session, simply because my body is too beat up and worn out to operate the pedals. I barely have enough energy to open the door, climb in and move the seat back.
Training has changed over the years and, to be honest, I’m grateful for the progression. I never used to do any extracurricular training — for instance, weight training and plyometrics — back when I started and now reap the benefits of all that. The pad work is different today, too, as we now train more specifically with MMA in mind.
Ten years ago, if I wanted to work on my boxing I’d go see a boxing trainer and improve as a boxer. If I wanted to improve my jiu-jitsu, I’d go check in with a jiu-jitsu instructor. We now incorporate all of these elements into one package, and practice boxing with jiu-jitsu and wrestling in mind and practice jiu-jitsu with boxing and wrestling in mind. They all bounce off of each other.
Even with sparring, we now simply spar MMA. You may have to make adjustments — for example, bigger gloves and shinguards — but, on the whole, sparring in 2011 replicates a genuine MMA fight and features all facets of the sport.
The only part of training that really becomes tougher the older you get is the sacrifice element to it. My daughter is eight years old now and she has a lot of recitals and theatre and singing practices going on right now, and my son is big on baseball, but, unfortunately, I have to miss a lot of these priceless moments as a result of training.
My youngest child is two years of age and, again, it’s just a shame that you have to miss out on so many great moments and memories because of training. As a fighter, I can fight, win championships and make money for years and years, but those small moments you share with your wife and kids truly are priceless. No title in the world can replace or compensate for those small moments.
Thankfully, I can now see light at the end of the tunnel. My fight against Nogueira at UFC 140 is less than two weeks away now, and the entire Mir family is ready for it all to be over. My wife and I were preparing for another day of routine one morning this week — gym, chores, chaperoning — but we still managed to see the funny side of it.
I said to her, “Don’t worry, in less than two weeks, this will all be over.” Ask any professional fighter and they’ll all tell you the most enjoyable part of being a fighter is the feeling of completing a fight and training camp and knowing it was all worth it…