Tuesday April 22, 2014
BALTIMORE - There was no entourage. Actually, it was just him, one man wearing a camouflage baseball cap and a Carhartt work jacket toting a pretty substantial amount of luggage through the lobby of the hotel on his way to the check-in counter.
It was still early in the day on Tuesday, and fight fans had yet to take their autograph and picture hunting positions in the lobby of the hotel ahead of UFC 172. At this point in fight week it was doubtful that anyone gave No. 9 ranked UFC lightweight Jim Miller a second glance as he made his way through the hotel.
Once he was spotted by the UFC staff, Miller was led to the conference room the promotion was using for fighter check-in. Miller dropped his bags inside the door, and headed off with site coordinator Burt Watson to get his weight checked. When Miller and Watson returned, the fighter completed his check-in, signed a stack of UFC 172 promotional posters and headed to the hotel room that would be his home for the next several days.
That's the thing about fight week; there's a lot of sitting around in a hotel room. Ninety-nine percent of the preparation for the fight is done prior to arriving at the hotel. At the hotel it's eating clean, tracking weight, performing media obligations, getting in some light workouts, hanging out with the fight team (when they arrive) and waiting to fight on Saturday night.
Miller has been on this grind for almost ten years, making his professional debut in 2005. After going 11-1 fighting with smaller promotions, he received the call from the UFC in 2008. Miller noted that there is a substantial difference in both fight week and fight preparation between his days on the local circuit and his run with the UFC.
Early in his career, Miller spent fight week working as a contractor with his father and brother Dan during the day and training at night. He and his team would then travel to the arena on the day weigh-ins were scheduled. Since transitioning to full-time fighter with his signing to the UFC, Miller said he now has a full five days to concentrate on shedding weight in a more controlled manner. He added that he welcomes that extra time because he now weighs ten pounds more than he did earlier in his career.
Weight cutting is not enjoyable for any fighter, and if a fighter says they had a good weight cut that adjective needs to be put in perspective. There's really no good when it comes to weight cutting, it's just degrees of less bad. As Miller explained, "I'm a firm believer that pain is a good learning tool. I've made all the mistakes you can make when it comes to cutting weight. Wrestling in high school it was don't eat, and bust your ass right before weigh-ins. Wrestling in college it was workout for two days straight, not eat, not drinking to make weight two days in a row to just suffer for four out of the seven days of the week. I'm positive I took years off my life wrestling in college. Now, I've got time and you're only making weight a couple times a year."
Since joining the UFC, Miller said the technique he uses to shed the last 10-15 pounds during fight week has evolved. Early in his career he used the old standby of hitting the treadmill while wearing plastics, but that left him fighting with rubbery legs come fight night.
Realizing the plastics and treadmill route wasn't cutting it; Miller experimented with another tried and true weight cutting technique, sweating it out in the sauna. That method of dropping water weight left him dried out, and "feeling like shit."
These days, it's a few rounds in the immersion bath. Miller acknowledged that the immersion bath, which he has used since his weight cut for his May 2012 fight with Nate Diaz leaves the hotel room "looking like a disaster," but other than that, he has found no drawbacks to his current method of weight cutting.
On Tuesday the weight cut was still a few days away, and it was clear that Miller was not looking forward to the process in the least. With that hanging over his head, Miller said he was still eating small meals of salad and protein with very limited carbs to keep his metabolism trucking along in the days leading up to the dreaded undertaking.
After walking to the store to pick up food and a couple jugs of water, Miller settled in for the day, beginning the wait for his cornermen to arrive on Wednesday.
Part 2 of this series will be published on Tuesday, April 29.