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September 18, 2014

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UFC 100:

Prep wrestling coach recalls high school career of Frank Mir

Mir won state championship for Bonanza High in 1998

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Josh Hedges/UFC

Frank Mir does some ground work on Brock Lesnar on his way to defeating him in UFC 81.

The Man in the Mir

As Frank Mir prepares for his UFC Heavyweight Championship match against Brock Lesnar, he sits town to talk about his family life. Mir and his wife just welcomed a new baby boy Ronin born on June 9th.

Long before Frank Mir became one of the more notable mixed martial arts fighters in the world, the native Las Vegan was a struggling wrestler at Bonanza High.

Mir started wrestling during his junior year and lost his first nine matches while becoming familiar with the sport.

Still, you could see his potential to become a star.

“He never got down on himself,” said Russ Leet, Mir’s coach at Bonanza. “He was such a good competitor and so confident in himself. You could see him improving, and once he got nine or 10 matches in, he figured out how to win.”

He’s been winning ever since.

Mir, who went 44-1 to win the state championship in the heavyweight division as a senior in 1998, will look to capture a more significant heavyweight title Saturday night. He is fighting Brock Lesnar for the Ultimate Fighting Championship title to highlight the much-anticipated UFC 100 card at Mandalay Bay.

Lesnar, who won the 2000 NCAA heavyweight championship for the University of Minnesota, is considered to have an advantage if the fight turns into a wrestling match.

Just don’t tell that to Leet.

The coach had a front row seat while Mir dominated the high school ranks — he only lost twice in two years after dropping those first nine matches — and has watched his prized pupil progress through the ranks of mixed martial arts.

“He had a plan at a young age that he would be doing this,” said Leet, who has stayed in close contact with Mir. “He is the best I have seen in all parts of fighting. He is so passionate about fighting and a great fit for the sport.”

Mir seemed destined for athletic success.

He started at fullback and defensive end on Bonanza’s football team that reached the Southern Zone semifinals in 1997, and his discus throw of 177 feet, 10 inches, in 1998 is still a Sunset Regional record.

“He is really a fabulous athlete,” Leet said. “He could have been a Division I athlete in anything he wanted to do.”

Competing in mixed martial arts was obviously the right career choice.

The 30-year-old Mir has a 12-3 record and is the one of the main attractions on the biggest card in mixed martial arts history. UFC officials expect 1.3 million pay-per-view buys for the event.

But don’t expect Mir to be intimidated by the enormity of the evening. Leet knows Mir will respond just like he did in beating Cheyenne’s Robbie Ryan for the state title in Elko.

“He likes to lay low,” Leet said. “He’s not a press hound and doesn’t ask for attention. He just goes about his training and prepares to fight.”

Mir beat Lesnar in February 2008 in UFC 81, but could have easily been defeated after being taken to the canvas at the beginning of the match. Mir won with a kneebar, locking Lesnar’s leg midway through the first round while Lesnar was standing over him.

It’s a result Leet would love to see Mir duplicate — just like he did during his career at Bonanza.

“I’m his No. 1 fan,” said Leet, who estimates he is contacted by reporters three times each year to talk about Mir. “He really paid attention to technique and learning how to wrestle. He was just an awesome, awesome high school wrestler.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected].

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