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T.J. SIMERS

The life of a UFC wife can have many ups and downs

Jenny Mir has endured some rough times in support of her husband Frank's fighting career.

July 11, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

FROM LAS VEGAS — Jenny Mir, wife of UFC heavyweight Frank, is sitting on the couch in her home breast-feeding Ronin Maximus, who is beginning a second month of life.

This never happens to me when I'm covering the Dodgers.

Life goes on for a mom of four, though, her husband probably a little more than 24 hours away from being squashed and buried by a human mountain, but somebody still has to give the kids their baths.

It's just never easy. When it came to Friday's weigh-ins at Mandalay Bay, she had someone save her seats so she could stay home as long as possible with the baby before arriving.

The doors closed, though, the crowd too large, so the wife of the guy who is considered one of the main draws for UFC 100 stood outside in the parking lot for almost an hour -- crying.

"The tears were wiped off," she says before meeting up with her husband again, "because he has to fight, and the fight right now is everything."

It's a way of life, Ronin's name meaning "samurai without master," another child named Kage, the shadow warrior rather than another name for an octagon. It's year-round work, "The Art of War" almost a family bible, "all sports," as Frank argues, "a form of war."

"I keep all his shorts with the blood still on them from his fights," Jenny says.

Scoff or laugh, if you want, I already did on your behalf, and she could not understand. "My husband went to battle," she says.

When her husband enters the octagon for UFC 100, the music turned beyond loud, the bright lights overwhelming and everyone going crazy, she will be sitting in a hotel room with the kids playing games.

She will have a phone set to the side, no idea what is happening downstairs, one person assigned the task of texting either, "he won," or "he lost." Then she will be escorted to the locker room to console or celebrate.

"It's just too stressful for me to be there," she says. "And it's not the violence or worrying about him getting hurt.

"It's the anxiety. A day or two before a fight I go to the empty arena and stand in the place where I believe they will have the octagon and picture it all in my mind. He can control what he's doing in the cage, but as his wife, I'm helpless.

"All the music and screaming fans just add to the anxiety, so I didn't go to his last fight and I won't be there for this one. I just know how much has been put into this, the sacrifices, the eight hours of training, coming home to sleep, everything else falling on the shoulders of Mom and wife because that's just the way it is."

The fight over, it's just beginning again.

"He loses, and he's not going to be a very happy person and the next three months are going to be miserable," she says. "He's going to be driven to win again, start training, and find out what went wrong."

She believes, of course, he will win. "And it will be great for a week," she says.

Now some folks might wonder how any wife can handle her husband's face being torn up or bones broken, but as Frank says, "Whether she can handle it or not, it can't stop it from happening."

What would you expect from someone who makes machismo a career? But you know what -- he wasn't so tough just a few years ago.

He bought a motorcycle, his wife horrified. "Why would you take such a risk?" she says.

"If something happens to you, you risk your career, you don't get to compete, you don't get to train, don't get to use everything your dad taught you, and you know how much you admire your father. You don't get the chance to teach your kids what your father taught you."

When motorcycle hits car a little later, Mir goes flying 60 feet into the air, a helmet saving brain damage, but his leg broken in two places, his knee so damaged there was talk he might never walk again.

Boo-hoo, though, just isn't enough for Mir, who goes into depression -- drinking and drugs following, "one night just crying at the dinner table," Jenny says, "because he didn't think he could protect his family any more, someone running off with our little Isabella and he can't even run after them."

No way for anyone to know what had to be endured, as she says. "If it was just me, I don't know, maybe I would have left him, but it was the kids.

"I was the only person there for him, everyone else abandoning him. I was asking myself, 'Did I do enough to save Daddy?' and 'How could I leave him in the mess that he was?' -- for them."

She says she "struggled with addiction before meeting with Frank, so I knew I couldn't say to him, 'quit right now.' I just had to gradually sober him up."

So he did, stinking up the octagon the first three times he tried coming back as a competitor, at one point submitting to the disappointment and tapping out, he thought, for good.

His wife wasn't buying it, though, sending him back into the cage, and now he's standing on stage beside his martial arts-teaching father in front of thousands of admiring fans, one submission or knockout from being the UFC's heavyweight champ.

"He's still in high school courses," Mir tells one interviewer after another in sizing up Brock Lesnar, his opponent who has only four of these fights on his resume. "I'm doing advanced graduate work."

The interviews over, he now has plans to join 40 others for a pasta dinner, and just maybe play video games rather than go to bed.

"My wife won't ever let me stay up all night to play video games," Frank says, "but now this is my chance to say, 'I've got a fight tomorrow and I really need to do this to relax.' So we'll see."

Talk about a fight no man can win; good luck, tough guy.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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