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Frank Mir has ‘unfinished business’ with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 140

Bonanza High graduate heads to Toronto in search of third straight victory

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Frank Mir smiles alongside his freshly won UFC heavyweight title belt in 2008. Mir became the first fighter to ever stop Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira with a third-round TKO at UFC 92.

By now, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira realizes how much it frustrates UFC 140 opponent Frank Mir when he makes excuses for his performance in their first fight three years ago.

That doesn’t mean he’s going to stop. Nogueira and his camp have long cited a severe injury and illness as reasons why Mir scored a stunning second round TKO victory at UFC 92.

Nogueira, a PRIDE legend who had never lost via stoppage before running into Mir, has even expanded his explanation for the defeat leading into Saturday’s rematch in Toronto. Nogueira said last week that coaching on “The Ultimate Fighter” in Las Vegas alongside Mir also threw off his training camp in 2008.

“It was kind of hard to train over there,” Nogueira said. “When I came to Brazil and made my camp, it didn’t feel like that camp went really good like now. I feel more powerful, more explosive and more confident now.”

The last sentence was what Mir (15-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) wanted to hear. Mir, 32, wants the 35-year old Nogueira (33-6-1 MMA, 4-2 UFC) at nothing less than his best at Air Canada Centre.

Mir is out to prove, for once and for all, that he’s the better fighter. It’s why, despite the emphatic victory he scored over Nogueira the first time around, Mir had no reservations about accepting the rematch when the UFC offered it to him earlier this year.

“I think there’s some unfinished business,” Mir said. “If it was a normal clear-cut victory, there would have no excuses saying afterwards.”

Nogueira, in fairness, took eight months off after the loss and underwent knee surgery. He also was in the hospital for nearly a week before UFC 92 with a staph infection.

Mir doesn’t doubt that Nogueira was hurt. He’s only bothered because he felt Nogueira broke an unwritten rule among fighters not to blame a loss on external factors.

“If you have an injury like an injured hand and someone asked you why you didn’t box more, then you say you had an injured hand,” Mir explained. “But as far as in general, to say you lost because of an injury, I think that’s a strike to your opponent. The guy in front of you beat you. Maybe you didn’t perform 100 percent because of an injury, but regardless, there’s many factors that play into an outcome of a fight.”

Both fighters have gone on to post mixed results since the night Mir took the interim heavyweight championship away from Nogueira. Mir has gone 3-2. Nogueira’s record since the Mir loss is 2-1, but it includes a victory he called the most meaningful of his career.

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Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira knocks out Brendan Schaub in the first round of their heavyweight bout at UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro.

As a heavy underdog, Nogueira knocked out Brendan Schaub in the first round of their UFC 134 fight four months ago. The bout took place in Rio de Janeiro, miles away from Nogueira’s gym. It was the first time Nogueira had ever fought in front in his home country.

“The one thing that will help him right now is getting such a devastating win down in Brazil,” Mir said. “I think his confidence has to be up higher. That’s a very dangerous thing for an opponent to have. That can be the difference between performing well and not.”

Mir is on a two-fight winning streak, so a UFC 140 victory could go a long way in getting a chance to capture the heavyweight championship belt for the third time in his career. If Mir beats Nogueira, he would probably only need one more victory before receiving a title shot.

“I know Frank has improved since the last time I fought him,” Nogueira said. “His stand-up has gotten better. He’s had some tough fights the past two or three years, but I’m in shape and ready to go. I’m ready to fight.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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