TORONTO -- Former champions Frank Mir and Alistair Overeem will fight for much more than relevancy in the heavyweight division when they meet Nov. 16 at UFC 167. Their futures with the promotion will be at stake: The loser is likely to be released.
UFC president Dana White made that clear Thursday during a news conference to promote UFC 165.
“Definitely,” White said when asked if this is a do-or-die bout for Mir and Overeem. “Yes, definitely!”
The revelation doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Mir, a former two-time UFC heavyweight titleholder (lineal and interim), has dropped three fights in a row. He was stopped in two of those losses via strikes.
Overeem, who entered the UFC as the former Strikeforce heavyweight champion, has lost two straight. In each defeat he was knocked out.
But the position taken by UFC officials results from something deeper than losing skids. Mir and Overeem are main-card fighters, which puts them on the higher end of the promotion’s pay scale. And if they aren't producing victories, they become financial liabilities.
If Mir falls short at UFC 167, the likelihood of no longer seeing him inside the Octagon will take some getting used to. All but two of his 24 professional mixed martial arts bouts have been held inside that cage. Mir is as much a part of UFC history as any fighter.
Overeem, on the other hand, has competed only three times under the promotion’s banner. But he came into the UFC with very high expectations -- and at the moment, he isn’t close to fulfilling them.
It didn’t start out that way. Overeem was impressive in his Octagon debut at UFC 141 -- knocking out former champion Brock Lesnar in the first round. The victory made Overeem the top contender and set up a May 2012 title showdown with then-heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos.
But the fight did not materialize after Overeem failed a prefight drug test and was denied a license to compete by the Nevada Athletic Commission. His testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio was 14-to-1.
Overeem would receive a Nevada fight license from the commission in January, clearing the way for a bout with Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at UFC 156 in February. After winning the first two rounds, Overeem got knocked out in the third. It was the first loss of his current two-fight slide.