The first part of our feature on Jim Miller left off with him talking about how he has yet to fight the perfect fight inside the Octagon. Below you will find the second half of the feature.
When pushed on what has kept him from realizing his goal of fighting the perfect fight, Miller is quick to answer, "I think my biggest problem is adapting in a fight. I'm hard headed, and when something isn't working, or I realize that something is wrong, I don't switch the game plan up. I don't adapt to it."
As an example Miller pointed to his May 2012 fight against Nate Diaz. That fight, the main event of UFC on Fox 3 was for a shot at the UFC lightweight title that was then held by Benson Henderson. Miller would lose that bout by submission in the second round.
A change in the game plan was called for early in the fight, "When I fought Nate I shredded a muscle in my leg about two minutes in," said Miller. "That was a fight I trained to fight mobile and be explosive in and out, and then I'm basically on one foot, and I was still trying to do the same thing, and that left me flatfooted and he started picking me apart, and it hurt me. Then I made a mistake, and he capitalized on it. I knew I was hurt, you feel it - trust me, but I didn't switch it up, and I fought the rest of the first round with it, and I came back, and I had a minute to think about it, and I came back to the second round trying to do the same damn thing, and it cost me."
Miller acknowledged that he is his own toughest critic and that he always looks to take something away from his fights win or lose that he can improve. With that being said, Miller doesn't go directly to the gym and work on those takeaways, "It's a process," Miller noted. "You have to build on things. You can't just flick a switch and all of sudden do something differently when you're fighting some of the baddest guys on the planet."
It's not all doom and gloom inside the head of Jim Miller. He's not so overly critical of his own performances that he can't recognize when he has competed in a highly entertaining battle. When asked what fight he would point to as a signature performance he begins by saying that he was very happy with the Camoes fight, but follows that with the fight that netted both Miller and his opponent $65,000 bonuses for Fight of the Night, "The (Joe) Lauzon fight was a fun fight," a smiling Miller said. "That was a guy that I really like. He's a great guy and a fighter that I look up to, and there was mutual respect there. As the fight went on, you could just feel that it was special. We were gutting it out, and that was the most tired I've ever been, but that was a fun fight. I still have lumps from the fight, but that was a fun one."
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You'd be hard pressed to find one person that saw that bloody back and forth battle and did nothing but cheer for the entire 15 minutes Miller and Lauzon spent inside the Octagon. While didn't hear taunts or jeers from the crowd during that particular fight, he has heard those things in the past, which led him to once say that the reason behind the boos was due to a lack of understanding from the fans.
That statement was made more than four years ago, shortly after Miller at UFC 108. I asked Miller if he still felt that way, "You look at the fan base. The fan base that will look at this interview is not the average fan; they're the above average fan," said Miller. "They're the fan that knows fighting and gets into fighting, but the fans that come to a show, there's a lot of the average fan that wants to see guys fight and just knock each other's heads off. They're the ones that boo. They're the ones that don't pay attention to interviews. They're the ones that might not know who I am when I've had 13 fights in the UFC that have been on the main card. That's the average fan, just like the average NFL fan doesn't know what's going on at the line of scrimmage."
When asked if he there has been progress, Miller acknowledged that yes there has been some movement on that front, but he added, "It's still coming along. I think the way that the sport has grown, and the accessibility of the sport has definitely helped it, but it's very complex. They're still people that think that when you're up against the cage guys are taking a break, and that's one of the most exhausting things in the fight game."
"I think people are learning more, and that's great in many ways. The more the fans learn about the sport the more the fans are going to demand excellence out of the fighters, and that's what we need. We need the fans to have more respect for what we do and more understanding of what we do because there are still a lot of people that would like to see two guys go in there and windmill punch, and they still say it was Fight of the Year."
The boos and catcalls from the fans don't really seem to matter much to Miller. Another thing that Miller does not put much stock into are the UFC rankings. "It's a very subjective thing right now," said Miller. "It's good to get recognition, but people can go up and down pretty quickly, and it's not like it really matters when it comes to title shots."
Over the course of his career those title shots have eluded Miller. Now, after a 3-2-0-1 run over his last six fights Miller seems to be getting matched up with fighters that are looking to make a name for themselves in the UFC's lightweight division.
The next opponent that Miller will face fits into that category. Bobby Green (22-5) debuted with the UFC in 2013 with a Submission of the Night win over Jacob Volkmann. He followed that win with victories over James Krause and Pat Healy. Green is currently ranked No. 14 in the 155-pound division.
I asked Miller if he thought the matchups he has been given by the UFC since his 2012 loss to Diaz feel a little bit like the promotion is saying that he had his shot, and now it's time to see if it's time to get some fresh blood in the top ten of the lightweight division. "It doesn't bother me," said Miller. "I had a tough run there. I was doing well, I was 9-1 in the UFC, and the way the title picture was, the timing sucked for me. You had all those rematches, and then I started running into some physical problems, and it caught up to me in some fights against some of the best in the world."
Miller looks at these fights as a challenge to get back to the top of the division, "I just have to bounce back, and the way I figure it, I'm not afraid to fight anybody, and if I do what I'm capable of I'll be champion, and I'll have to fight all of those guys anyway, so I might as well beat them now."
That attitude is literally etched into Miller's skin. On his left pec Miller sports a lion claw tattoo with the words "He Who Greets With Fire" emblazoned above it. Miller said the idea for the tattoo came to him after he watched a National Geographic documentary on lions and hyenas in Botswana.
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One lion in particular caught Miller's attention - the lion that was always ready for a fight whenever the hyenas started messing with the pride. That lion's name, when translated to English was "He Who Greets With Fire."
For Miller, the image permanently inked into his skin has a very deep meaning, and this is when the realization of just how important family is to Miller came to light, "The only thing I fear - I don't fear death, I don't fear pain. The only thing I fear is something happening to somebody I care about and not doing everything in my power. So, to me it means, when - I'm getting a little fired up thinking about it. When the shit's on, when it's time to go ¬- I have to be ready to go. If my family, my wife, my kids, my brother, my sister, parents, any of my friends, even anybody on the street needs help, I'm doing what I have to do. I don't think that I could live myself if I watched something happen and something bad happened. So, for me, when it's a dangerous situation to greet with fire, to do what I have to do."
"What I do on the mats, I deal with violence and pain in a very personal way, and I think that helps deal with things that are outside the cage. There have been a lot of fighters that have thrown themselves into harms way to help somebody out, and I'd like to think, and I train myself and convince myself that I'll do the same thing and not hesitate because that hesitation could mean harm to someone. I want to be that fucking lion."