Wednesday, May 25, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
Sometimes in the UFC, winning isn’t enough.
It’s a lesson Frank Mir learned the hard way after a victory over Mirko Cro Cop last September. Mir won via third-round knockout, but his performance was criticized more than heralded after the fight was seemingly in a lull for a full 14 minutes.
UFC President Dana White even withheld a $70,000 knockout of the night bonus —Mir had the only knockout that evening — in protest of the UFC 119 main event. Mir said he wasn’t bothered by the disapproval and took it to heart.
“I listen to criticism because I know that if I’m not selling fights or giving good performances, that it’s going to affect matchups and paydays for me in the future,” Mir said. “At the same time, I’m always balancing no matter how excitingly I lose a fight, winning, being the best, is still more important.”
Few doubt that Mir’s UFC 130 fight against Roy Nelson Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena will fail to deliver excitement. Mir feels more pressure to put on a show and Nelson is more of an attacker than Cro Cop at this point of his career.
Nelson, who has known Mir for 11 years after both grew up in Las Vegas, defended his upcoming opponent when asked about the Cro Cop fight. He didn’t understand the uproar.
“He knocked out Cro Cop, so that’s the only thing you can say,” Nelson said. “If people are criticizing that he knocked somebody out, then what — did you want to see a decision?”
Mir was dejected after the win and all but apologized in the post-fight press conference, saying he didn’t stick to his game plan and push the pace as much as he wanted.
After re-watching the bout a few times leading up to his UFC 130 appearance, Mir has changed his thoughts slightly. He said he didn’t fight as poorly as he remembered and successfully negated Cro Cop’s game plan.
“The reason I was disappointed was because I’m a perfectionist,” Mir said. “I drive myself the hardest.”
Most of the complaints from the bout came from a lack of action in the stand-up, which Mir said was unfair to him. He believes Cro Cop deserved more of the blame.
Mir said he didn’t stand and trade in electrifying fashion because the only way Cro Cop could beat him was with a giant knockout swing. Mir wanted to take the fight to the ground but had an unexpectedly difficult time taking Cro Cop down. The failure of his wrestling is Mir’s only regret.
"At the end of the day, there’s somebody else in the ring trying to do everything opposite of what I want to happen,” Mir said. “If the other guy started cooperating more, I’d look better.”
For all the answers Mir is being forced to provide, he’s still one of the top five heavyweights in the UFC. A victory over Nelson would likely put him one fight away from a title shot.
It would also bury the Cro Cop bout away in people’s minds.
“The fight world’s memory is short,” Mir said.