Find out how Frank Mir trained to regain the UFC heavyweight title -- and another meeting with Brock Lesnar


>> For a behind-the-scenes look at our photo shoot with Mir, click on videos.

M&F's Jon Finkel chatted with Frank Mir during his training camp for last weekend's big win over Antonio Nogueira at UFC 92. Here, we revisit the training philosophy that helped Mir walk into the Octagon strong, fit and confident.

Frank Mir is as handy with a punchline as he is with a punch. Yes, he's tough. And yes, he's a great fighter. But at the start of our photo shoot, he's more George Carlin than George Foreman.

"I'm not cut like a bodybuilder," he jokes. "I have thick abs -- so thick you can't see them." Badum-ching!

When our photographer asks him to make his fight face for a portrait, he objects: "My fight face isn't appealing because I'm very calm before I hit someone. I'm not angry when I fight." So when does he get angry? "When I look at my wife's credit card bill," he says, laughing. Thank you. Thank you. Don't forget to tip your waitress...

Affable isn't a word you expect to use when describing someone whose profession is inflicting pain, but that's exactly what Mir is. And here's why: "I don't associate fighting with liking or disliking someone," he explains. "My dad taught me karate when I was 4 years old. He was the first guy to break my ribs. He was also the first guy to knock me out, but we were just training. I love him so much."

It's at this moment that we should back up, because we're not doing this interview and photo shoot at the Comedy Store or the Laugh Factory. We're at Striking Unlimited in Las Vegas, one of the elite mixed martial arts training centers in the world. So while the shoot brings to mind a Rodney Dangerfield bit, there are men grimacing in agony all around us as they train for upcoming fights.

In fact, when we first arrived, the gym seemed like the last place you'd be having a few laughs. When we first opened the door, the room had the feel of a just-scrubbed torture chamber. Hand mitts were lying in a row ringside like scalpels lined up for surgery. The heavy bags hung still, the wrestling mats were shiny and the whole room smelled like a disinfectant that lost its battle against blood and sweat long ago. The gym was empty. But it was full, full of fight promotion posters, newspaper clippings and signed pictures of men who make a living breaking the will of other men.

Most of the pictures, of course, were of Mir. There's Mir with Brock Lesnar in the promotional poster for their fight (which the former won in 1 1/2 minutes). There's Mir on the cover of Real Fighter magazine. There he is again with his arm around Ken Hahn, the owner of Striking Unlimited. And here he is now, explaining to our photographer why photo shoots go about as well with his fight training as an origami class. "Sorry I keep forgetting to keep my head up for the picture," he says. "It just goes against all of my instincts. I've been training so long I naturally tuck my chin. Keeping my chin up for the camera is fine; do it in a fight and it's lights out."

In the interest of full disclosure, however, Mir has never actually been put to sleep. Not from a kick, not from a punch, not even from his motorcycle accident in 2004 that broke his femur, tore all the ligaments in his knee and kept him out of the UFC for two years, forcing him to vacate his heavyweight title.

"The worst part about the crash was that I puked and I couldn't get my helmet off," Mir says, laughing. "My brother thought I was dead, but I just thought I had a dead leg. I didn't even pass out."

Mir tells this story the way someone might tell you about the time he almost twisted his ankle on a patch of ice. Pain, like all things, is relative, and Mir seems to have a supernatural ability to withstand it.

"I once took 80 punches to the head in a fight and didn't pass out," he adds. "I guess I can just take it."

That or his skull is made of the same material they use for black boxes in airplanes. Either way, the man has strong bones. "When I spar with people for kicking drills, I need to wear double shin pads," he says. "Otherwise, they get hurt."

He shrugs off this last statement because when you boil it down, that's what he's here for: to condition his body to hurt people. If you want to make an omelet, you've got to break some eggs -- or ribs, or whatever part of your opponent's body is exposed. On Dec. 27, that opponent will be Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira, the man who currently coaches opposite him on Season 8 of Spike TV's The Ultimate Fighter.