· Jim Miller ~ Answering The Call
Riiing. Riiing. Riiing. It’s the telephone, and it’s a familiar sound to Jim Miller (13-1). In the past, the phone would ring and he would jump to answer it, hoping that on the other end of the line was a last minute fight, a seminar, a promoter of any type, anything to make a few extra dollars. Today, when Miller’s phone rings, he’s not quite as quick to go running to answer it. He doesn’t have to. Not anymore. Not after the last two times he answered the call. Those calls were from Joe Silva with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). They were calls for Jim to come in as an underdog, at the last minute, to be fed to higher ranked, better known opponents. Miller would win both fights convincingly. Those two victories cemented Jim Miller’s place as a serious contender and a rising star for the UFC in the Lightweight division.
At UFC 96, on March 7, 2009, he will be fighting Gray Maynard; although still an underdog, he will have a full training camp and plenty of notice for this fight. “Yes, I began training for this fight the day after I found out about it. The training is going well thus far,” said Miller. Maynard is admittedly a big step up in competition for Miller, the former Cage Fury Fighting Championship (CFFC) champion, but he doesn’t see his training going any differently or adding any new techniques for this particular fight, “I've been training the same way I always do. I train with a bunch of good wrestlers and most of whom are bigger than me, so I have pretty much always had a good blueprint for Gray, so there really isn't anything new for me. It would just be something that the fans haven't seen me do yet, so I guess it just depends on if the opportunity arises in the fight.” A victory over Gray ‘the Bully’ Maynard would assuredly put Miller into the upper echelon of UFC Lightweights, but when asked where he thinks a victory would lead him, the New Jersey native humbly stated, “Honestly I really don't know. It's only my third fight in the UFC and there are so many tough guys in the division. I think my place will become clearer after we see the outcome of a couple other fights, like Penn/St. Pierre and Diaz/Guida.”
Miller, a former Virginia Tech wrestler, may not want to jump to conclusions when it concerns his place in the division, but he does seem to know who he does and does not want to see across the octagon in the near future, “I personally believe that I match up better with Kenny Florian than most of my peers. It's still a very difficult fight, but I feel my style of fighting would be tougher for him to deal with than any other lightweight besides Sherk and Penn.” So what about avenging his 2006 loss to Frankie Edgar, the only blemish on his record, “Frankie and I have been training together since right after he fought Gray, so a rematch isn't likely. I can't speak for him, but right now for me, he is much more valuable as a training partner than he would be a win, and that's to say if I could even beat the guy. In the end, I just want to become the very best fighter I can. I want to realize my full potential and always fight to it.” As for his thoughts on the upcoming BJ Penn / Georges St.Pierre fight, “This is a hard one to predict. I think GSP has dominated the best in the world that 170 has to offer, and BJ hasn't fought quite as tough competition, but he has been very dominant as well. All that I know is that it should be a great fight.”
Fighting as an apparent underdog is nothing new to Jim Miller, however he doesn’t feel that he has silenced his critics and convinced people that he is no fluke, “I don't think so. The more casual fans don't know enough about me yet. I think the more passionate fans know what I am capable of though.” Of course those same casual fans got a small glimpse of Miller and his abilities when he took on and dominated Mat Wiman back in December. On that night Miller was again fighting on short notice. He admitted that the holidays, the eight days notice, and a recent honeymoon had left him less than a complete fighter, “It's really hard to come up with one percentage. Mentally I was 100% into that fight. My body was healthy; I had no injuries to contend with. I still had all the experience I had gained through previous fights and all the knowledge from previous training. The major disadvantage I had was that I wasn't in shape. I had limited cardio and was carrying some extra fat into the cage. I hadn't done any serious training since my fight in England, over a month earlier. I really can't come up with a number or fraction; I just feel that with a proper camp I would have finished that fight.”
Jim’s older brother, Dan Miller (10-1-1), is also making waves in the UFC Middleweight division. The two brothers are being considered as possibly the best in a long line of siblings that have competed simultaneously in the sport. “Dan and I train very well together. We want to one-up each other but it's more of a playful competition rather than serious. We train hard, put our time in, and have surrounded ourselves with a great group of guys.” Miller would go on to recall one of the few times that he had ever gotten the best of the bigger Miller, “Before Dan and I started training, we didn't have an outlet for our energy. We would always end up "play fighting" at work. This one time we were messing around and I was standing inside a dumpster and Dan was sitting on the outside edge. I saw the opportunity and went for the dropkick, and kicking him off the edge. It was about the only time I ever got the upper hand on him.”
Their little game of sibling rivalry surely leads to a lot of fun in the gym, “I tend to not have a serious attitude in training, so it's always a good time.” But Jim obviously takes his training very serious. This is evident in the company he keeps when preparing to fight, “I have always tried to train with the best guys I can. I feel that having good training partners is the most important thing you need in order to be successful in this sport. There are so many great guys that I have trained with, that if I tried naming them all, I would end up leaving someone out. I get to train almost everyday with Jamie Cruz, I've been able to train under Renzo Gracie a couple times and so many of his black belts and other students. I get to train with Ricardo Almeida and all his guys. I have a brown belt in BJJ under Jamie Cruz. I also have a great group of training partners at AMA that I train with all the time.”
“AMA is the product of Mike Constantino. Mike started the fight team just about two years ago. He brought Jamie Cruz in to teach BJJ and started bringing in some of the best talent in northern New Jersey. All the guys that have come in have been looking for good training partners, and that's what we all got at AMA. It's not unlikely that at an MMA practice we'll have three current UFC fighters, two other UFC veterans, two TUF veterans, and a couple guys who are on the verge of bigger and better opportunities, such as-- Tim Troxell, Joe Camacho, Sean Santella, that train with us all the time. Then there are a bunch of guys that come in once or twice a week, like Charlie Brennaman, Brian McLaughlin, Chris Liguori. And there are many others that train hard and you will see them one day. It's a tough room!,” Miller added.
Hopefully, Jim Miller’s phone will ring again soon. Preferably with Joe Silva offering him a UFC title shot.**
To get more information on Jim Miller, his brother Dan, or AMA Fight Club please visit his website at www.millerbrothersmma.com.
by J. Andrew Yount