Fighting words: Mir attacks Lesnar, then apologizes

Frank Mir lost to heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar Frank Mir lost to heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar via second-round TKO at UFC 100 in Las Vegas. (July 11, 2009) Photo Credit: UFC Photo

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Mark La Monica Mark La Monica

Mark La Monica is the deputy sports editor for cross media at Newsday and writes about mixed martial ...

Welcome to the mainstream media cycle, mixed martial arts. You wanted it, you got it.

Welcome to a world where an athlete says something over the top, then gets slammed for it, issues a dotted-i and crossed-t news release of an apology, then gets slammed again for it.

Such was the case this past week with UFC heavyweight Frank Mir. Quite possibly the most loquacious fighter in the sport, Mir spit out some, um, disparaging remarks about champion Brock Lesnar.

"I hate who he is as a person," Mir said during an interview with WXDX-FM in Pittsburgh nine days ago. "I want to break his neck in the ring. I want him to be the first person that dies due to Octagon-related injuries. That's what's going through my mind."

Whoa! Hello! Dems some fightin' words.

That prompted UFC president Dana White to call Mir an "idiot" and "unprofessional" earlier this week. (Anyone see a black kettle nearby?) White later issued a calmer rebuke of Mir's statements. It also set off a dotcomathon of commentary about Mir, Lesnar and the nature of violence in sports.

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Then, in a longstanding tradition set forth and practiced by hundreds of athletes, celebrities and disgraced politicians, Mir said he was sorry: "I would like to apologize to Brock, his family, the UFC and the UFC fans for my stupid remarks. I respect Brock, all the other fighters, and the sport of mixed martial arts. I'm sorry that I stepped out of line."

Do we believe Mir is really upset about the stir caused by what he said? Nope. Especially when, before his offending remark, Mir yapped about his honesty in interviews and always saying what's on his mind. "If I don't mean it," he said, "why is it even coming out of my mouth?"

Now, do we believe Mir genuinely wants to create a scenario in which Lesnar's wife becomes a widow and his three children grow up without a father? No more than we believed fans in Zaire really wanted Muhammad Ali to kill George Foreman when they chanted "Ali, bumaye" (translation: "Ali, kill him!").

Mir genuinely dislikes Lesnar, which is fully acceptable. We're all free to like and dislike whoever we want. Mir beat Lesnar in February 2008, then lost to him in the championship unification bout in July 2009. Eight months later, Mir still fumes.

Let's see what happens next time they meet in the Octagon. Mir fights Shane Carwin for the interim heavyweight title at UFC 111 on March 27 in Newark, and if he wins and escapes relatively unharmed - "alive" you might quip - he'll fight Lesnar this summer in another title unification bout.

Were Mir's comments in poor taste? Yes. Were Mir's comments out of line? Not really. Even the craziest MMA fans couldn't possibly believe that Mir truly wants to end Lesnar's life. This is just trash-talking 2.0. Overhyped, overfueled promotion. One man singularly focused on reaching the pantheon of his sport.

And if Mir's talking gets everyone else talking, then everyone else is buying pay-per-views. And so the dance continues.

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