WHEN FANS OF mixed martial arts compile rankings of legends or all-time greats, the name Frank Mir is bound to be one of the first names that springs to mind. The former UFC Heavyweight Champion has had several memorable moments that cemented his legacy as an icon in the fight game.
But Mir doesn’t just want to be remembered for his best wins. He also wants to share as much as he can with those outside of the sport. Mir feels the masses can benefit from some form of MMA training or experience, even if it’s just for self-defense. He’s working on the development of a new gym, as well as a role as the vice president of a new promotion, Freedom Fight Nights.
Mir also is proactive in sharing his expertise and wisdom for those in other areas of life outside of a ring or cage. That’s why he sat down for this exclusive interview where he talks training, nutrition, sleep, and more.
You’re someone who many fans look up to and want to emulate as they get into the world of MMA. What were the early challenges you faced when you started getting into martial arts and fighting competitively?
There was too much information, and a lack of structure, but the UFC has fixed that now for those that are getting into it now. Nowadays with sports like baseball and football, there are different styles, but there are also common standards when it comes to the sport. The UFC was faced with a lot of nonsense back then. There was a lot of subjective information. People that were trying to get into martial arts and fighting back then had to sift through that. The structure is more uniform now when it comes to MMA, which is much better for everyone involved.
There are many readers that may simply want to learn how to defend themselves. If someone was wanting to learn more about MMA or martial arts for that purpose, what do you recommend they should do as first steps?
I actually do recommend starting with MMA, which is what I consider myself now. I don’t see myself as a jiu-jitsu guy or boxer. MMA is the art that I train, and just like a quarterback would practice sprinting as a part of his game, it’s about more than simply throwing for that quarterback. MMA is now everything from kicking to punching to throwing and takedowns. For the people that are interested in training for self-defense, I suggest going into mixed martial arts.
Where can someone interested in doing that go to make that happen?
That is one hurdle they may come across. Some gyms out there only want to train people looking to become professional fighters. There are other gyms out there, though, and it’s a void that I’m looking to help fill. Criss Angel and I are looking to open a gym, and we want to help give mixed martial arts to the masses.
So, someone like yourself for example can come in and learn techniques, but not be facing a 22-year-old that is looking to win the UFC title. For those that want to start now, just look around and find that closest place that can help you. It will be worth it.
What is the biggest mistake you see people make if they do have to fight?
The bare human hand is not meant to punch people in the face. It’s not going to be very effective, and if anything, it’s going to be damaging to your hands. In my days as a bouncer, I would open palm strike people instead of going bare fist because it was safer for myself—and I would be less likely to get in trouble.
What is the most important component of fitness for self-defense or training for MMA someone should focus on improving if they want to pursue that goal?
The most important part people should focus on is mobility, period. If you can’t touch your toes, then you’re going to probably look like a turtle if you get taken down on your back. Joint health and mobility, which is a combination of flexibility and strength, is what I tell people to focus on the most.
After mobility, I suggest cardio, actually. Strength and power is great, but if you do have to defend yourself and you black out after 30 seconds because you can’t handle the anaerobic explosion, then you’re going to be in trouble.
Is there any particular type of workout style or program that you’re fond of?
You interviewed my friend, Nick Best, who is a great strongman and powerlifter. The way he trains for strongman is actually very good for cardio that you need for a fight. If you have to pick up a heavy stone or object, carry it for 30 seconds, then throw it up on a platform, that is a lot of duress caused by a high-intensity, power and explosion-based movement. That can be phenomenal for you in terms of cardio. Jogging for five miles can be great for weight maintenance and cardiovascular health, but it will do nothing for you if you have to protect yourself over a long period of time. At the end of the day, though, nothing will be getting into the training specifically for MMA. If you want to be good at what you’re doing, you have to do it. There’s no gym exercise I can show you that will simulate fighting.
What is something you feel more trainees should take seriously?
That would be stretching, and I do it daily. I do a lot of rolling too. We have a roller, mat, and lacrosse ball in my bedroom, and I do it while we talk. I also have weights I use to help stretch my upper body. I feel everyone should make it a regular habit like taking a shower or brushing your teeth. Mobility and stretching are very essential for life, and you can easily take a few minutes to do it every day, and why wouldn’t you?
How much has your nutrition changed since your days in the Octagon?
What I ate back when I was fighting was pretty ridiculous. To be honest, in the last couple years of my career, I wasn’t eating as clean as I should. That’s why I made changes since. I go with something like a 40/40/20 plan. Forty percent of my calories are from protein, another 40 is from my fats, and only 20 percent are from carbs. Even then, I’m conscious of what carbs I eat, and that includes orange juice with creatine. So, I get about 20 to 25 grams of sugar within 30 minutes of me leaving the floor. My insulin levels are up, and everything is ready to be transported.
Protein shake recipes are always a hit with our readers. Got one you want to share?
Sure do. I like to have about 40 grams of protein. I use a banana, almond butter, and I go back and forth between milk with protein and vegan protein with oat milk. Sometimes, I do powdered peanut butter instead of almond butter as well because I like the taste, and I think both can be good for you.
How often do you think people should allow themselves to splurge, or are you more focused on staying regimented when it comes to diet?
I think people need to be realistic about life. No one is going to diet year-round. Whether it’s keto or counting calories or even micro-fasting, which I did for a while, find what works for you and follow it, but allow yourself to let go occasionally because it can keep the mind healthy. For me, as long as I stay in a range of 255 to 275 pounds, I’m okay. Once I get to 275 or higher, I need to tighten back up.
Everyone is aware of the importance of sleep. Do you have any advice for people who need to be able to dose off quicker at night or sleep longer?
If you need to, get a sleep study. I have sleep apnea, and I have a CPAP machine now. If people ask me for a tip, I always ask about sleep. If they say that they get three to four hours, I tell them there’s nothing I can do to help them. Take getting eight hours as seriously as you would a job or anything else in life you really commit to. It’s that important. As for tips, we set our phones down at a certain time of night, we have the room blacked out, and we try to have lights off about an hour before bed.
What about those times that you may find it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep? Do you have a backup plan?
I definitely suggest that you don’t touch an electronic device. I may read a book or lay there and just try to relax. Normally, though, because I am in such a routine, I go to sleep. I can’t share the importance of that enough. When I work with people, the first thing I address with them is to make sure they get that seven to nine hours of sleep. Everything else can be worked on after that.
Besides sleep, what other forms of recovery do you suggest for people looking to get in better shape?
I mentioned rolling and stretching, but I also like compression for the arms and legs, and I have a STEM machine, but another main thing I always suggest is cold water. I like jumping into a cold tub or ice bath, especially if my legs feel heavy. I find it to be very therapeutic. It pulls the blood back into the center, then your body can recover at a much faster rate when the blood starts circulating again. It may feel miserable at first, but you’ll feel so much better when you get out.
Adversity is inevitable in life, especially for those with goals. How do you suggest getting back on track or moving forward after tough times?
I treat everything in life just like a fight. That’s exactly why I raised my children to be martial artists—not for fighting professionally, but to have a martial arts mindset. It’s just like the art of war, the war on whatever you’re facing. Ask yourself “how can I defeat this?”
I suggest breaking it down like you would an opponent. I have a friend who is a general in the Air Force, and he has a system. Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. I use that a lot in life. The fight I am most proud of is my second fight with (Minotauro) Nogueria. I was a little overconfident, and he got me with a perfect right hand. Even as I was hugging his legs, I thought about our discussions about his best submission, which was the guillotine. I made sure I didn’t get in a position for him to put that on. Even as I was rocked, I thought that.
But, he got it on me anyway. Had I thought about being in the first round and already in his submission, I’d passed out. So, I thought about how his weight was off, and I consumed myself in the process. When you’re in a bad situation or dealing with a problem, get as much information as you can and make decisions on how to act based on that information. When you sit on your ass and think about a problem, it’s only going to get worse. Be proactive.
Roger Lockridge is from West Virginia, and he has written over 2,000 fitness articles for numerous print and digital publications.