Wednesday April 23, 2014
BALTIMORE - Jim Miller and his brother, UFC welterweight Dan stood outside the two conference rooms the UFC had commandeered for offices during UFC 172 fight week. Dan was in town to corner Jim when he faced Yancy Medeiros on April 26 on the pay-per-view portion of UFC 172. The Miller brothers were awaiting the arrival of their jiu-jitsu coach Brian McLaughlin.
When McLaughlin appeared he was headed up the escalator with another fighter he would corner at UFC 172, lightweight Charlie Brenneman. After shaking hands with the Miller brothers, Brian noticed that Jim was looking a bit younger. Jim pointed out that he was wearing make up. Not only was he wearing make up, but his eyebrows had been combed as well. The reason, both Jim and Dan took part in a video shoot with the UFC. Dan feigned disbelief that Brian didn't comment that he too appeared younger since he was also wearing make up from the video shoot.
That good-natured exchange established that the Miller brothers and McLaughlin are very comfortable around each other. As time wore on it became abundantly clear that their relationship runs a littler deeper than that of coach and two random fighters.
When asked what role the two play on fight night, Dan replied that Brian's role is that of "expert in the ground game." Dan added that his role "Is basically to bring everything together and to be moral and emotional support for Jim and to keep him in the right mindset, and just be there for him and help him with everything."
With the Medeiros fight being Jim's 17th fight in the UFC and 29th as a professional, Dan said over time the two have developed an easy routine, and that he doesn't need to tell his brother much to keep him on the right mental path during fight week.
As for McLaughlin, he said his role was, "Reminding him of things we've gone over, just cementing the repetition in. If there's a key thing that an opponent does that we drill like (for the Joe) Lauzon (fight), we went over the scissor heel hook almost every session. Now, we don't have to worry about it, because we don't know anything about this guy."
This guy was Medeiros, a fighter that up until the Saturday before UFC 172 was scheduled to face Joe Ellenberger on the preliminary portion of the fight card. When Jim's original opponent on the April 26 fight card, Bobby Green was forced to withdraw from the fight due to injury, Medeiros raised his hand to replace Green. Miller, one of the anyone, anytime, anywhere breed of fighters, agreed with the match up and the fight was on.
That change in opponent was big for McLaughlin, for Jim, not so much. Jim has said he rarely watches tape of his opponents. Instead, his training is based on bettering himself. Jim said he leaves the tape watching to his coaches. McLaughlin acknowledged that he had watched plenty of tape on Green before he withdrew from the fight, "I feel like I knew what Bobby Green was eating for breakfast every day," said the coach.
Comparing his approach to that of Jim's, McLaughlin said, "I'm the opposite, I'm obsessive with watching the tape, and watching the movement. Partly so we can pick up on technical issues, but in addition helping Jim with technique. We spar together too, so whenever I'm on the mat, I'm not trying to win the round, I'm trying to give him the best look on an opponent."
With little time to prepare for the unranked Medeiros, McLaughlin said, "At this point we're Yancy's problem, he's not our problem."
One thing that Jim has pointed out about himself is that he has quiet a stubborn streak. While that's a shortcoming that Jim acknowledges, Dan said that hardheadedness has never been a problem when Jim comes back to the corner between rounds, "He listens very well," said Dan.
That ability to listen has served Jim well. Jim pointed out one fight in particular that Dan had to give him more than advice about what he was doing right or wrong, "One of the fights I was fighting angry because my opponent came in extremely overweight," Jim recalled. "So, I went out there and tried to hurt him. I was fighting kind of sloppy. So, Dan took me by the scruff of the neck between the second and third round and said 'Snap out of it!' And I did, fortunately."
Despite having not fought for more than a year, Dan is an active member of the UFC roster with 22 professional fights to his name. McLaughlin, who fought on season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter, is no longer actively fighting in MMA, but he does have eight professional bouts to his name. That professional fighting background is something that Jim feels is important for a coach to have.
"I really like having guys around me that have fought," said Jim. "Even when you're in the corner you have to take what you see with a grain of salt because you don't know what it's like in a fight. Sometimes I'll get really stuck on something with Dan, and it's like 'Do this! Do this!' You can't really get hung up on that. Sometimes it's just not there when you're in the fight. It all comes down to that point of view and perspective. I think having guys that have fought, it's not just random stuff that they think should be there. They might be able to go a little deeper on why it's not working in real time."
McLaughlin echoed Jim's comments, "Personally, I think your head coach should have fought, just so they understand the weight cut, so they understand the pre-fight jitters, and the ability to make a mid-round transition. Those things, if you haven't fought, you're just guessing."
Speaking of just guessing, when the conversation turned to the unsolicited coaching that seems to run rampant in all sports, McLaughlin said he is sometimes happy to receive that type of advice from the outside. Other times, well, he doesn't want to hear it.
"If it's someone that I went to high school with, that never laced up a pair of gloves then it's like 'Really, he should have done that? Where were you, I could have used you," said McLaughlin. On the other hand, when it's a person he respects and knows has a great deal of knowledge and can actually help him, McLaughlin is all ears.
McLaughlin then offered an example, "I went into Eddie Bravo's gym and he had one of Danny's fights where Dan hit a beautiful armbar and the guy rolled out, and he had the fight on his phone. He said, 'I've been waiting for you to come here.' He said, 'This is why the guy escaped,' and we drilled a bunch of changes and now I changed the positions. So, in that way someone from the outside made a helpful change that we can improve upon. So, it all depends on the source of the information."
Part 3 of this series will be published on Wednesday, April 30.