Frank Mir has held the UFC heavyweight title on two occasions. He's a recognizable face and carries a big name. He's never been a steppingstone.
Mir, though, is nearly 34, and he's been competing in the UFC for more than 11 years. He's coming off a one-sided loss to then-champion Junior dos Santos in a heavyweight title bout and there have been whispers about his future.
He'll fight Daniel Cormier on Saturday in the co-main event of UFC on Fox 7 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. It's a bout that has the potential to make Cormier a star, and the potential to catapult Mir back into the upper echelon of the heavyweight division.
"I believe I can make another run, no question," Mir said. "From just a wrestling standpoint, Daniel is a great pure wrestler. He has more experience than I do from that standpoint. But I've been in the UFC a long, long time. I've fought all sorts of guys. There's not too many of the guys who have been top guys I haven't fought.
Cormier is a two-time Olympic wrestler and a burgeoning mixed martial arts star. He won the ill-fated Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix last year after joining the field in 2011 as an injury replacement.
He was so impressive in the tournament, as well as in a win over Dion Staring in the final Strikeforce show in January, that there are many credible MMA experts who believe Cormier is the biggest threat to the reign of UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
Cormier, though, doesn't have nearly the same name recognition with MMA fans that Mir does.
One of the tried and true tricks for matchmakers in the fight game when they're trying to build a new star is to put that fighter in against an aging, recognizable ex-star. The idea is for the newcomer to steal the aging star's notoriety.
Mir is decidedly the B-side in this event. The card is being held in San Jose, where Cormier trains, and it's an opportunity for the former Strikeforce star to showcase himself.
The danger in that matchmaking plan is always if the newcomer isn't ready or the grizzled vet isn't done. And though Mir is coming off a bad loss to dos Santos, it's a pretty good guess he's not done.
Cormier is actually two months older than Mir, though he turned pro as an MMA fighter eight years after Mir did.
Before his loss to dos Santos, Mir had won three in a row and four of five. More significantly, he still believes he has a title run in his future.
He's had three separate opportunities at the belt and there are a lot of men ahead of him in the pecking order. The notion that he's done is laughable, though.
"Everybody's high on Daniel now because of what he did [winning the grand prix as a replacement], but the hype, the media, none of that is going to win this fight. I feel like I have the ability to win this fight and get right back in the mix."
It won't be easy to string together a series of wins because there are a number of elite fighters at or near the top of the division now ahead of him.
Mir, though, has been through it before. He left the confines of his home in Las Vegas, where he built a gym, so that he could train under Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, N.M.
Cormier is one of the world's top fighters, but Mir is out to remind those who may have forgotten that he is, too.
"I've got a lot of experience in this business and I know how it goes," Mir said. "There are always a lot of ups and downs and you just have to stay with it. Training at Jackson's has been different for me, but the good thing has been, there is so much elite talent there that they push me and force me to be better.
"I feel good about where I am at and I think that's going to show in my performance."
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