‘Fedor Emelianenko is still extremely dangerous’ – Frank Mir talks Bellator Grand Prix (VIDEO)

Two-time UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir, who signed with the second biggest American MMA promotion Bellator this summer, spoke exclusively to RT Sport about the organization’s heavyweight Grand Prix tournament, which he’ll take part in alongside seven other notable fighters.

Following his 16-year UFC career, Mir signed a contract with Bellator MMA in mid-August of this year, although his last fight came against Mark Hunt more than a year ago, back in March 2016.

One month after the bout with Hunt, Mir was notified of a potential anti-doping violation. One year on, in April 2017, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced that Mir had been given a two-year suspension, as an in-competition sample had tested positive for the “long-term metabolite of dehydrochloromethyltestosterone.”

READ MORE: ‘USADA can find any athlete guilty, what are your resources to defend yourself?’ – UFC’s Frank Mir

The 38-year-old veteran, who still holds the record for the most victories in the UFC’s heavyweight division, will therefore only be eligible to compete again in the US from April 2018.

Mir says he isn’t looking to stay inactive any longer than necessary, and wants to fight as soon as his suspension ends in April. On Wednesday night Bellator officially announced that Mir will fight the legendary Russian Fedor Emelianenko in the quarter-final of the heavyweight Grand Prix.

We spoke to Mir about the upcoming tournament, his thoughts on the fighters, and his preparations for his comeback after a two-year break.

RT: Bellator recently announced their heavyweight Grand Prix tournament, which they will host next year. What are your thoughts?

Frank Mir: Oh, I’m super excited! I think it’s a phenomenal way for Bellator to come out. The heavyweight division doesn’t have a champion crowned yet. And so to come out this way with some of the talents that they have: myself, Mitrione, Fedor. I think it’s the best way to get attention on it immediately.

RT: How do you rate the fighters taking part in this grand prix?

FM: Everybody in there is great. You have Fedor first and foremost, one of the legends in the heavyweight division. Matt Mitrione is extremely athletic, phenomenal jab. Roy Nelson is always a pain for anybody to fight with. He has a great right hand, which puts everybody to sleep if he lands it, good at stopping takedowns, heavy on top. You have King Mo (Muhammed Lawal), the light heavyweights are all dangerous. They all are great wrestlers. You have Mo who is a national champion. (Ryan) Bader who is a highly decorated wrestler. Quinton Jackson is a good wrestler. And Chael Sonnen, who wrestled on the national level. And they all have good hands, you know. King Mo is a great boxer, good technique. Quinton Jackson has a great left hook. Ryan Bader, you know I’ve trained with him on a reality show, I know how strong he is. So they’re not going to be outmuscled. They all are tough fights.

RT: You are set to fight Fedor Emelianenko. How do you rate Fedor in his current state?

FM: I think he’s still extremely dangerous. He did everything he does normally. You see how fast he threw the right hand on Mitrione. The difference is everyone else just have gotten a lot better. If Matt Mitrione would fight 10 years ago in Pride, he would have been one of the best fighters in Pride, if we grab Mitrione we are seeing now and put him back there. Back then guys were either good boxers, wrestlers, jiu jitsu guys. You didn’t have a lot of guys who were good at everything. Which Fedor is. He’s good at everything. And now he has to deal with the fact that everybody now is good at everything. There are very few guys that fight at the top level of MMA, that you can say that ‘oh he has zero stand-up’ or ‘oh he has zero ground,’ or ‘he can’t wrestle.’ We don’t really use those terms anymore. Everybody has different athleticism, different mindsets, backgrounds, different personalities. Just like in boxing – not everybody fights the same, even though everybody boxes. (Guillermo) Rigondeaux and (Vasiliy) Lomachenko fight differently, but they’re still boxers. So within MMA, we’re all MMA artists now. And you don’t really have people with blurring holes. So to underestimate Fedor would be a crazy mistake. Watching him on the countdown (videos) to that fight, hitting the bag, working out. What I’ve seen him still doing, I still think he’s a great fighter. I just think that the rest of the world has caught up, so he is not light years ahead of everybody, like he was 10 years ago.

RT: How do you rate your own condition, keeping in mind that by the time you will be cleared to fight, it’s going to be two years since your last fight?

FM: Actually I’ve started training already. Because I’m not planning on training all the way through, I basically want to do two and a half camps leading up to the fight. Train, get in a moderate amount of shape, take time off, rest, then start over. It’s called prioritization. It’s one way to get in this kind of shape. I think the mistake is two ways, guys making when they took a long time off. It’s either: they train the whole time, and they are burntout by the time of the fight, because they didn’t take the time off. Or two, the mistake they make, instead of having a super long training camp, they have their normal training camp, but they weren’t in a great shape to start off with. It’s hard for just one camp to get yourself back. That’s why I think it’s always great to start six months away from when you expect the fight. Train for two months, take a week off. Train for two months, take a week off. And then as your body had a rest and it has a good level to start off with for the last camp, that’s really hard.

RT: There was also talk about a possible fight in ACB, the promotion that you work for as a commentator. But given the nature of Bellator’s heavyweight grand prix, will you be allowed to compete in any other organization while you stay in the tournament?

FM: Yeah absolutely. It just all depends on my injuries. You know, if I go fight Fedor and we have a three-round war and I come out, you know, beaten up, it’s gonna take a lot longer to turn around and fight. But if I go out there and I can catch him in a submission very early or with a punch and the fight is over, then my opportunity to turn around and fight six weeks later, after taking a week off, rest and start up again. Taking two years off is rather a lot of time from my career and I’d actually like to make up for it. We only have that much time that we are going to have this opportunity to get to fight. And I like fighting, I’m like any other athlete, whether you play football, whether you play hockey. You like to do what you do. It’s fun. And I think of the kids on the weekends. And most grown men they pay money to other people to play sports, to go out there and compete. And I want to get as many opportunities to fight as I can.

RT: Have you discussed possible location options with ACB? Would it be in Russia? Europe? Or somewhere else?

FM: Probably somewhere in Europe or Russia. It could be either or. One thing that I’ve brought up to them, that I really wanted to do, and we’re trying to see how hard it is to do with all the political aspects – because my father comes from Cuba, and that’s where a lot of my heritage comes from – I would like to fight in Cuba, before I go. And the ACB is one of the most international organizations that I know of, that seems to do fights everywhere and anywhere. So I think if anybody can get it done, it would be them. The only problem is right now that we’re facing, the biggest obstacle is that the Sports Federation in Cuba doesn’t allow cage competitions. So we can have MMA there, but it has to be in a boxing ring, which the ACB and most (organizations) in the world don’t do that. But still, hopefully it’s a thing that we will be able to get through, before I retire.

RT: You also mentioned on your podcast that you’ll probably go for a training camp in Russia, particularly in Grozny, Chechnya, where ACB has their training base. Have you discussed it with them yet?

FM: Yeah, I’ve actually started the ball rolling. And obviously on their side it’s all open arms, whenever I need to go there. At this point it’s just also making sure that it works out for my family to stay home without me for eight weeks or 10 weeks. And then on top of that is that all their appropriate weight class guys would be there for me. Their light heavyweight champ is pretty dangerous, and honestly if I know that I’m fighting Fedor, I probably wouldn't fight with a lot of heavyweights, guys who are bigger than I am. I’ll probably fight with guys who are not bigger than 100 kilos, because I’d like to face people that are fast and mobile, which I think is what Fedor possess. Fedor is not a big, huge heavyweight. He’s actually a very small heavyweight, but he has very good speed, very good power and explosion. So I think that sparring with light heavyweights would probably be the best preparation.

by Denis Geyko for RT Sport