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Frank Mir only knows one way to train — with family nearby

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Steve Marcus

UFC heavyweight fighter and Las Vegas resident Frank Mir talks with his wife, Jennifer, during an open workout at his gym Friday, March 12, 2010. His stepson, Marcus, is at far right. Mir, a former Bonanza High School wrestler, is scheduled to face Shane Carwin for an interim heavyweight championship on March 27 at UFC 111 in New Jersey.

Frank Mir workout

UFC heavyweight fighter and Las Vegas resident Frank Mir shadow boxes during an open workout at his gym Friday, March 12, 2010.  Mir, a former Bonanza High School wrestler, is scheduled to face Shane Carwin for an interim heavyweight championship on March 27 at UFC 111 in New Jersey. Launch slideshow »

Frank Mir working on his strength

Frank Mir understands why others assumed he was overwhelmed.

When Mir arrived in Memphis last December to fight Cheick Kongo in UFC 107, it was hard to tell the Las Vegas resident was one of the fiercest mixed martial arts fighters in the world.

After all, he looked more like a dad taking his children to Disneyland, and not someone days away from having to be at his best in the Octagon.

As Mir walked through the airport with a sleeping child in his arms and multiple pieces of luggage strapped on his shoulder, it was easy to assume he was distracted. The only thing missing was a video camera and Mir would have looked like Chevy Chase's character Clark Griswold from the "National Lampoon's Vacation" movies.

The scene prompted an onlooker to ask Mir how he could focus on his fight with the obligations of his family.

Ask those closest to Mir, however, and they will confirm the one constant in his life has to be family. Having them nearby is a must.

"He's actually more comfortable with his kids here," said his wife, Jennifer Mir.

When Mir arrives in the New York area this week for Saturday's UFC 111 in Newark, N.J., he surely will have his wife and four children nearby. Without them, you see, he says he doesn't bring the same intensity and focus to his preparations.

"I don't perform well when my family isn't around me," said Mir, who will take on Shane Carwin for the interim heavyweight title.

In addition to his four children — stepson Marcus, 17, Isabella, 6, Kage, 4, and Ronin, 9 months — the Mir family includes four dogs. He prefers to have his family (including the dogs) in the gym during his training sessions, but quickly realized other fighters were uncomfortable with the ruckus they created.

So, he opened his own training facility last month.

Click to enlarge photo

A baby activity chair is next to an exercise machine at Frank Mir's gym Friday, March 12, 2010. One of the reasons to open his own gym is so that he could bring his family and dogs into the gym, he said. Mir, a former Bonanza High School wrestler, is scheduled to face Shane Carwin for an interim heavyweight championship on March 27 at UFC 111 in New Jersey.

The gym, which is behind Texas Station, has all of the necessities to help Mir train. More importantly, it is also equipped to accommodate a family with three toddlers. There is baby furniture less than 15 feet from the makeshift Octagon, and there are plans to construct a playground.

"If you don't like my kids running around and jumping on the couch, then go to another gym," said Mir, a Bonanza High product. "I don't want someone to dictate that I can't bring my family."

When he is not training, Mir is described as a homebody, someone who spends endless hours watching movies or playing video games with his children and dogs — the newest addition is a tea-cup Yorkshire Terrier name Bushido, which is the warrior class in Japan.

"He is very family-orientated. Just a good guy," Marcus Mir said. "He wants to be with his kids constantly."

Frank Mir's training has included roughly four to six sessions each week at Philippi Sports Institute. Mark Philippi, the former strength and conditioning coach at UNLV, is working to add strength to the arsenal of the 6-foot-3 Mir.

It was Mir's lack of strength and size that was a deciding factor in his loss to Brock Lesnar in UFC 100 last summer. Mir weighed 245 pounds against Lesnar and is training with Philippi to weigh in at the heavyweight maximum of 265 pounds, the weight Lesnar and Carwin fight at.

"I told him it was going to take at least one solid year of training to get to where he needs to beat the guy (Lesnar) he wants to beat," said Philippi, whose facility has also trained local professional athletes such as former UNLV basketball players Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks and big-leaguer Jason Giambi.

"We hit it hard. He has put the time in and done everything I've asked of him," Philippi said.

Philippi said Mir has been able to add bulk and strength — his walking around weight is around 270 pounds — without taking away the flexibility that makes him an elite fighter.

"Strength has been an addictive thing for him," Philippi said. "It took awhile to push him out of his comfort zone, but he realizes the importance of it and is committed to getting stronger."

That is, after all, the formula needed to avenge the loss to Lesnar, who hasn't fought since UFC 100 because of a bacteria infection that required a lengthy hospital stay.

Before anything can be set with Lesnar, Mir must beat Carwin. That is easier said than done.

Carwin is undefeated in 11 professional fights, winning all in the first round.

"There is a lot of mystery about him," said Mir, who compared Carwin to Lesnar in the fact that both have strength and superior wrestling ability. "It's a disadvantage when there is not enough footage of an opponent ... I will just have to work with what I have."

Mir knows it will only take one swing from Carwin to end the fight.

"Carwin hits hard, bro," Mir said. "If you don't hit hard and you weigh 260 pounds, that is something to worry about."

Mir said he has no reservations about tapping out if he is in danger. Win or lose, the result from inside the Octagon won't define his legacy.

Rather, how he performs as a father and husband will.

"Give me your neck and tell me your not going to tap," Mir said. "It's ignorance when you don't tap. I don't agree with that."

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