The UFC announced over the weekend Mir would replace Alistair Overeem in next month’s heavyweight title fight against dos Santos in Las Vegas. Overeem, who is scheduled to appear in front of the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Tuesday, failed a random drug test in Las Vegas late last month.
Technically, Overeem hasn’t failed to receive a license from the commission yet, meaning there was an outside chance he’d still be available on May 26. That meant until the UFC’s announcement, Mir had been in limbo on whether he’d fight dos Santos or his originally scheduled opponent, Cain Velasquez.
Realistically, he admitted, his thoughts had more or less settled on the title fight.
“I would be lying if I said it didn’t pull me away from my preparations for Velasquez,” Mir told ESPN.com. “The fact it came through was a good thing, because I already had one eye on dos Santos.”
In the early parts of camp, Mir was going home and watching Internet videos of college wrestling matches, according to his head trainer, Jimmy Gifford. Once the Overeem news was announced, those late-night film sessions mysteriously switched to videos of boxing classics.
“He came in saying, ‘Yeah, I watched Joe Louis fights last night,’” Gifford said. “I told him, 'I thought you were watching wrestling.'
“I’m actually happy the fight got changed. We were like everyone else -- reading the Internet, saying this guy tested positive; what’s up? He was already pretty checked out.”
The best stabilizing force in the camp, according to Mir, was his father. He wouldn’t argue the fact it looked as though his son was headed to a title fight, but still found a fairly creative yet effective way to keep the focus on Velasquez.
“My father said, ‘Even if they give us dos Santos, what if he gets hurt?’” Mir said. “Oh, they’ll put me back in with Cain. OK. We’ll prepare for Cain.”
One month out, the focus has officially turned to dos Santos, and it’s a fight Mir and his camp are confident in despite the shortened camp.
A positive for the former champ is that although he was preparing for a three-round fight instead of five, the fact that Velasquez fights at a “middleweight’s pace,” borrowing a phrase from Gifford, forced Mir into the best physical shape of his career.
“In all honesty, I think three rounds with Cain is as vicious as five with anyone else,” Mir said. “As far as what he brings to a fight, Cain is a lawnmower. He keeps moving forward. He threw 300 punches in the Cheick Kongo fight. I don’t think some welterweights can match that. So I am in better shape cardio-wise now than I have been at any point in my life.”
While Mir’s team prepares for a title fight, Overeem released a statement Monday that the positive drug test resulted from an “anti-inflammatory medication that was mixed with testosterone,” prescribed to him by his doctor for a rib injury.
Overeem stated he was unaware the substance contained testosterone, which led to his elevated levels.
When asked if that’s an issue he’s ever dealt with in his 11-year career, Mir said he’s made it a point to inform the promotion he’s fighting for exactly what substances he’s on to avoid similar issues.
“Anytime a doctor tells me to take something, I’m immediately telling the UFC,” Mir said. “They have doctors on staff. So, I say, ‘Hey, I have an injury. This is what I’m going to do.’ I’m just very transparent with everything I do. That way, I feel if my doctor gives me something, if I have everyone on board and tell everyone what’s going on, it can be immediately addressed.”