Kage Mir dressed as a peapod for his first Halloween. Jennifer Mir, his mom, took her 1-year-old son trick-or-treating around their Las Vegas neighborhood. Alone.

"I was too wasted to get out of bed and go trick-or-treating with my kid," said his father, Frank Mir, a mixed martial artist in the UFC. "I'll never get that day back."

That was the state of mind in 2006 for Mir, a former champion who threw himself into the type of alcohol and drug downward spirals usually reserved for rock stars.

"When I finally regained consciousness, I realized I'm only to going to live one time," said Mir, 29. "I'm gonna have my regrets, but let me not have any new ones. My kids will never remember that day, but I will. My wife will. My mom will."

What he can get back now is his title. Mir faces Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for the interim heavyweight championship at UFC 92: Ultimate 2008 on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It's one of three main events on the stacked card. Forrest Griffin defends his light heavyweight title against Rashad Evans, and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson gets a third shot at Wanderlei Silva.

$imageCaption

For an athlete, the fall from glory to gutter requires just one misstep. Sometimes, it's of their own doing, sometimes not. Sometimes, it's a little bit of both. The climb back, well, that takes numerous carefully calculated steps.

Mir (11-3), a lifelong martial artist, rose to prominence in the UFC with his superior Jujitsu skills. He won the title at UFC 48 in June 2004 by breaking Tim Sylvia's arm 50 seconds into the fight.

Then came a day in September. That day. The 16th. While riding his motorcycle around Las Vegas, Mir was struck by a car. His 240-pound body hurtled through the air, landing some 60 feet away from the place of impact. The femur in his leg broke in two places. Every ligament in his knee ripped. Pieces of concrete once belonging to the curb of a Las Vegas street were now embedded in the helmet of a world champion fighter.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Unable to fight for 18 months, Mir was stripped of his title. When he finally returned to the Octagon in February 2006 -- at 257 pounds -- he lost to Marcio Cruz via first-round submission. Mir won in July then lost in the first round again to Brandon Vera in November.

Mir lost the mental intangible that makes fighters different from other people. Alcohol played its part, as did pain killers and other drugs.

"Pretty much as bad as anyone can imagine, that's probably accurate," Mir said. "It was a lot of stuff. Alcohol was probably one of the least damaging things I was doing to myself at the time."

So to see his reaction in the Octagon -- and his wife's joy in the stands -- on Aug. 25, 2007 after beating Antoni Hardonk by submission in 77 seconds is to know how deep he sank and how high he had risen.

"The day comes when you wake up and say, you know what, I have to pull myself out of this funk I'm in and try to get my life back," UFC president Dana White said.

Focused and clean now, Mir can get it all back with a win over Nogueira (31-4-1). Of course, Nogueira has never been knocked out or submitted. And he, too, has a hardship story. In Brazil, at age 11, Nogueira was run over by a truck and within breaths of life.

"This journey," Mir said, "where I'm at right now sort of completes the circle. Anything I do beyond that is certainly a plus."