Posted 08/07/2014 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA

Is Frank Mir Really an MMA Hall of Famer?

Over the last week, Sherdog unveiled a five-part Hall of Fame piece by Todd Martin. In it, Martin opines about what an independent MMA Hall of Fame would look like, which is a topic that gets discussed when the UFC inducts a new member into their Hall of Fame (in this case, Pat Miletich). Martin does a good job in that he’s thorough and provides justifications for his recommendations past the obvious list of guys.

That said, Martin bloats his Hall of Fame. Through his first three parts, he enshrines 33 fighters. The final two parts (“Borderline Candidates”) add another twelve or so (some of them come with qualifiers) for a total of 45 fighters. For contrast, the Baseball Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 1936, more than 50 years after organized baseball began (or, closer to MMA’s current history, 36 years after the modern era began at the turn of the century). It took until 1949 for the Baseball Hall of Fame to reach 45 player members.

In 1985, Bill James created the Keltner list to answer the question: Should [ballplayer] be in the Hall of Fame? The list isn’t a set of rules as much as a guideline for induction. With that in mind, and with the help of Gordo1581′s post in this Underground thread, I’d like to unveil an MMA-specific version of the Keltner list to examine one of the more questionable nominees on Martin’s list: Frank Mir. (Note: I wouldn’t include Mir in a Hall of Fame list anyway seeing as he’s still active, but he’s a great test case for the Keltner list.)

1. Was the fighter ever regarded as the best fighter in the world? Did anyone, while the fighter was active, suggest the fighter was the best fighter in the world? No. Never.

2. Was the fighter the best fighter in a major organization? No. Mir submitted Tim Sylvia for the heavyweight title in June of 2004. BJ Penn, who had defeated Matt Hughes for the welterweight title in January, had just jumped to K-1, but Hughes still had a superior resume to Mir. This also coincided with Randy Couture’s rebirth at light heavyweight, and it’s hard to argue with Couture’s resume at the time (victories over Liddell, Ortiz, and, later, Belfort).

3. Was the fighter ever regarded as the best fighter in a weight class? By the time Mir won his first title, Fedor Emelianenko was 19-1 and had beaten the last best fighter at heavyweight in Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Emelianenko wouldn’t relinquish his hold over that title until June of 2010, when Mir was no longer in the discussion of even being the best heavyweight in the UFC.

4. Did the fighter continue to win meaningful fights past the fighter’s prime? This depends on what you view as Mir’s prime. He was 32 when he beat Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for the second time at UFC 140, which marks the tail end of an athlete’s traditional prime years. There’s an argument that his prime ended after the Sylvia fight when a motorcycle accident took him out of action for almost two years. If the former, no. If the latter, yes.

5. Is the fighter the best fighter not currently in the hall of fame? Not applicable, but you’d have to induct a fair amount of fighters to make this a “yes.”

6. Is there any evidence to suggest the fighter is better than his or her record suggests? No. Mir’s career is littered with decisive losses to what most perceive as better fighters.

7. Did the fighter win any major championships or tournaments? As mentioned earlier, he defeated Sylvia for the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 48. He won an interim title against Nogueira at UFC 92. He fought for two more titles (one interim, one undisputed) against Shane Carwin and Junior dos Santos at UFC 111 and UFC 148, respectively, and lost.

8. Are comparable fighters in the hall of fame? Another “not applicable,” but let’s go ahead anyway. Some good comps for Mir are Rich Franklin, Forrest Griffin, and Fabricio Werdum. They all have similar good/very good records with notable victories, but decisive losses to fighters clearly ahead of them. Werdum’s probably the best comp when we factor in styles. Of the three, I’d only consider Griffin a Hall of Famer, and mostly due to the following question.

9. Did the fighter have a major impact on the sport? Was the fighter responsible for any rule changes? Did the fighter introduce new techniques or styles? Did the fighter change the fight game in any way? Mir was the rare dynamic jiu-jitsu guy at heavyweight, though he fought in the same era as Werdum and Nogueira, so he’s not completely unique in that regard. He at least deserves partial credit for the massive buyrate at UFC 100, though the bulk of that goes to Brock Lesnar, Georges St-Pierre, and the historic nature of the card.

VERDIT: Mir’s had a great career, especially if you ignore his dropoff after 2011, and it’s easy to imagine a scenario where he never crashes his motorcycle, holds the UFC heavyweight title for a couple years, and makes a better case for himself. But that lack of dominant run hurts his Hall of Fame candidacy, leaving him on the outside looking in.

Photo by legendashow via Flickr and the Creative Commons license.

Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter

Mike Fagan