Daniel Cormier has been training for Frank Mir for most of seven months.
But the unique thing is that the Mir he’ll face next week might be a slightly different one than the fighter he started training for in September.
Cormier (11-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) and Mir (16-6 MMA, 14-6 UFC) were supposed to headline a November Strikeforce show in Oklahoma City, with Mir crossing over to the UFC’s then-sibling promotion in a one-time-only special attraction. But a Mir injury knocked him out of that fight.
Cormier went on to wrap up his Strikeforce run – which saw him go 8-0, including the heavyweight tournament title – with a win over Dion Staring in January, but then hopped right back into a camp for Mir. But Mir had since moved on from his longtime Las Vegas training base to the Greg Jackson/Mike Winkeljohn camp in Albuquerque, N.M.
Cormier believes Mir may have looked around at the UFC’s heavyweight division and thought he might need to step up his training game ahead of their co-main event fight at UFC on FOX 7, takes place April 20 at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., with a main card on FOX (8 p.m. ET) following prelims on FX and Facebook.
“When I heard that (Mir had moved to Jackson’s), it didn’t really change my approach – I’m always going to train hard,” Cormier told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “But what it let me know is Frank, one of two things – he’s taking the fight very serious, or he just thinks at this point the Frank Mir before, the older Frank Mir, wasn’t good enough for the current landscape of the heavyweight division.”
Whether that’s the case or not, only Mir likely knows. But regardless of his reasons for the move to Jackson’s, Cormier, who trains at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, believes an improved Mir is the best opponent for him.
“I’m excited about it because I want to fight the best Frank Mir that there is,” Cormier said. “I don’t want to fight a guy that isn’t 100 percent confident or 100 percent sure of his training situation. I want to fight Frank when he’s in a situation that energizes him because it’s something new, and he’s always learning new things.”
Of those new things, it might be a stretch to imagine Mir learning much new on the ground. He has long been considered one of the best heavyweight grapplers in the sport with a jiu-jitsu game at elite levels.
The former UFC heavyweight champion didn’t just snap Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira‘s arm by accident – he knows what he’s doing down there better than most. Cormier knows that, of course.
But the unbeaten two-time Olympic wrestler believes Mir may think he holds an edge on the feet, too.
“I think Frank’s pretty confident that he’s better than me in the standup,” Cormier said. “So maybe what they’re thinking is I’m going to go take him down and he can work off of his back to sweep me or submit me. If not, he won’t mind keeping the fight standing and roughing me up against the cage – he’s bigger than I am. Maybe knees. I think he’s going to be pretty confident in the standup until it doesn’t start going so well, and then you’ll start seeing him try different things, things I may not have seen before”
There have been other fighters who are good on the feet that Cormier has taken out with relative ease. He knocked out Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in the first round to reach the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix finals. And in the finals, he dominated Josh Barnett for 25 minutes to win the crown.
But whatever Mir is working on to prepare for Cormier, he’ll do so as a fairly heavy underdog for the second straight fight. Against then-champ Junior dos Santos at UFC 146, Mir was a 4-to-1 ‘dog; against Cormier, he’s 3-to-1.
That doesn’t mean Cormier comes in thinking he’ll have a walk-through, though – even if he believes it’ll take a little more time for Mir to show off whatever changes to his game being at Jackson’s will reap.
“He’s a real opportunistic guy, so I’ve got to be really careful,” Cormier said. “But I believe it takes more than just one camp to start seeing that (new trainer’s) style. I think Frank will be better (and) I think Frank will be in better shape. I’m expecting the best guy out there. But I think in the next fight, you’ll start to see him be more of a Jackson-type fighter.”
For more on UFC on FOX 7, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
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