NEW YORK — The easy marketing line for Saturday’s Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight bout between Frank Mir and Alistair Overeem is that the two stars are fighting for their jobs.
If it were an old-school pro wrestling match, it would be dubbed “Loser leaves town.”
In reality, it’s not that simple. Both are highly paid attractions who still could be marketable even with another loss at UFC 169 at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
That doesn’t mean their jobs are safe, either.
UFC president Dana White said while there is certainly a chance the loser could be cut, he wouldn’t make a firm commitment.
“What if it’s a great fight where they both go out and put on a show?” White said Thursday during a news conference at Madison Square Garden. “What if it’s like the (Mark) Hunt and (Antonio) ‘Bigfoot’ (Silva) fight? You wouldn’t cut either of those guys if they put on a show like that.”
Neither fighter seems particularly concerned about their future.
Mir, who has lost three straight bouts against some of the division’s top fighters, says he knows there are options regardless.
“Sure, I’ve thought about the consequences of coming off a fourth loss,” the Las Vegan said. “One solace I can take away from that is if I were to have a bad experience on Saturday and I’m cut from the UFC because they say that for whatever reason I went from main cards to not being able to sell any cards, and I’m not able to fight for the UFC, would I really want to fight somewhere else? I don’t think I’d have an issue going to another organization and receiving a paycheck from my appearance on a poster.
“I still sell tickets.”
Overeem, who has been knocked out in two straight fights, refused to acknowledge any added importance to this bout.
“Every fight decides your future,” he said. “There’s always pressure when you’re fighting in the UFC. It’s the biggest stage, so there will always be pressure to perform well, but no more than usual.”
One thing Overeem no longer has to deal with is the soaring expectations he faced when he entered the UFC in December 2011.
The Dutch kick boxer had been a champion in Strikeforce and was coming off a K1 kick-boxing title.
Overeem had won 11 straight fights in a four-year span, and his powerful strikes made him one of the sport’s most feared fighters. His 25 months in the UFC have produced one win, two losses and a suspension for elevated testosterone levels. The losses, both by knockout, came in 2013.
“It’s been a hard year,” Overeem said.
The losses have taken a bit of the mystique off Overeem.
“People are now maybe less intimidated, but there are advantages to that, too,” he said. “Guys will actually agree to fight me now.”
Overeem, 33, is convinced he can return to what made him so feared before he entered the UFC. He says he has evaluated everything about his game.
“They will be intimidated again,” he said.
To help return to that point, he has dropped about 20 pounds and insists his stamina will be better. There is no question Overeem tired badly in losing to Silva and Travis Browne.
“Everybody knows I’m the guy that wants to knock people out in the first round,” Overeem said. “That’s what brought me here. I have a lot of wins in the first round. That’s what people love to see. I’m a fighter who goes forward and does damage. In the last two fights, especially in the last fight, it could have gone my way, but it didn’t. It just made me have to reinvent myself.
“If you’re clever, you’ll reinvent yourself all the time. Losses just make you do it a little more often.”
Overeem also said he would keep fighting if the UFC releases him. He has not faced the same type of grilling about potentially retiring as Mir has, despite being just one year younger.
Mir shrugged off the questions, saying he wants to fight at least four or five more years. The 34-year-old former champion said he understands why those queries have been directed his way after losses to top contenders Junior dos Santos, Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett.
“I just think on the surface to the casual fan, you hear three losses in a row,” Mir said. “It doesn’t matter if the losses are to Superman, the Hulk and Wolverine. It’s just, ‘Oh, you lost three in a row. Are you finished?’ There’s a lot of heavyweights who if they fought that same stretch of three guys would have the same record.”
The bout is part of a pay-per-view card headlined by a bantamweight title bout between Urijah Faber and Renan Barao.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.