Friday April 25, 2014
BALTIMORE - Jim Miller stepped on the scale at the Baltimore Arena on Friday afternoon, checking in at 155 pounds. By Friday evening he had eaten a protein bar, a banana and a bit of a turkey sandwich.
If that doesn't sound like much, keep in mind that he had also filled up on Pedialyte and water after going without liquids for almost 24 hours. A late dinner was also on the agenda for Jim, his brother Dan and their wives.
When his final weight cut began on Thursday evening, Jim had ten pounds of water to extract from his body to make the lightweight limit for his Saturday fight at UFC 172. If you think the weight cutting process is something that is tackled in the 24 hours before the fight, you would be wrong. As Jim said, making weight is a weeklong process that begins the seven days before the fight.
One week out from fight night, Jim began to watch his carbohydrate intake, reducing daily consumption to no more than 50 grams. At that point, his meals were mostly roughage and protein. Salt was still allowed, but not for long.
Early in fight week, Jim increased his water intake to get his body into a flushing mode. This water flushing mode may seem like no big deal, but Jim said that traveling at this point in the weight cut has caused some issues in the past. "It bit me in the ass before," he said. "The plane gets delayed and you have tears coming to your eyes because you have to go so bad, and you're sitting on the tarmac. You don't want to be that guy who runs to the bathroom and everybody flips their shit." With a short flight between Newark, NJ and Washington D.C, Jim avoided that issue ahead of UFC 172.
On Wednesday, Jim removed the salt from his diet so his body would not retain any excess water. The fun really began on mid-day Thursday when he cut off his water intake. Things then kicked up a notch on Thursday night when the immersion bath process began.
According to Jim, that process isn't that complicated. "I sit in there for ten minutes, and then come out and let the sweat come, and then you scrape the sweat with a card so you don't get cooled off by your own sweat, and also so you continue to sweat," said Jim, noting that the sweat scraping role falls to Dan.
On Thursday night, Jim went through three 10 minute sessions in the tub followed by 15-20 minutes of time out of the tub. At that point, the sweat stopped rolling and the Miller brothers wrapped up the immersion bath session for the night.
The tedious process was livened up a bit with music, as Jim's twitter feed indicated:
Cuttin weight to "Lovin' Every Minute of It" by Loverboy. Not sure I agree, but the juice is worth the squeeze. pic.twitter.com/LpDTFxv8Ka— Jim Miller (@JimMiller_155) April 25, 2014
When asked about the selection, Jim was quick to point out that the Loverboy song was "Probably one of the better songs going on when I'm laying in the bathtub in my underwear or I'm out of the bathtub and he's (points to Dan) scraping my back."
Jim said the soundtrack to what he laughingly called, "A very intimate" time with his brother also included Neil Diamond and Lionel Richie. It was at this point that Jim proclaimed his love for Neil Diamond, especially for the song, "Desiree." "I'm pretty sure I belted out the complete Desiree by Neil Diamond," Jim said, while Dan nodded in confirmation.
How deep is his appreciation for that particular Neil Diamond track? If his statement "I fucking love that song" isn't clear enough, consider he almost named his daughter after that song. "My daughter was born on the second of June," Jim said. "If she was born on the third, I was going to demand that her name was Desiree - I'm kind of glad that it wasn't."
Jim still had some weight to lose when he woke on Friday, and with the weigh-in looming, the UFC threw the fighters a curveball. The pre-fight medicals had been scheduled for the hotel early on Friday afternoon and not at the arena directly before the fighters hit the scale.
That change forced Jim to ponder the timing of his Friday morning series of immersion baths. After mulling it over, and realizing he was "a little too anal" about making weight, he decided to cut the weight prior to the medicals just in case he had to come back and do another round of immersion baths.
All went well with the Friday cut, as evidenced by Jim's 155 pound weight when he finally stepped on the scale.
Of the entire process, Jim said, "This one was not the easiest, but it was above average. I don't know why. I wish I could figure it out, but sometimes it's just harder than others. I've had ones where it was more physically draining, and this one was better than average. But I came in a little bit heavier starting because my weight got stuck before fight week. I was very pleased that it came off easy and I wasn't foggy."
With the weight cut, weigh-in and some fuel and fluids in his system, talk turned to the 24 hours or so that were left before Jim and his team would make the short trip from their Inner Harbor hotel to the Baltimore Arena.
Jim said Saturday morning would begin with a good breakfast, but, "Fighting on the east coast is a little hard because I usually eat such big breakfasts that I don't feel like eating until later in the day, and then it's like do I eat now? So I usually try and get a light lunch, but I like to eat a large breakfast."
After breakfast, Jim said he would get a brief workout in around noon before taking a nap. The team was scheduled to leave the hotel sometime around 7:00 on fight night.
According to Dan, once the team hits the arena, "It's a lot of sitting around. That's what sucks about it, you go from sitting to getting a little warm up and then (the call comes) 'You're fighting!'"
Fighting isn't something that many want to do as a profession. Of the group that wants to earn their income from fighting, the number that can actually accomplish that feat is even smaller.
The path from wanting to fight and making a living from fighting was not overly complicated for Jim, "What made me take it (the path to MMA) was that I wanted to do something that was fun. We were just working for our dad, and we were watching MMA, and we were watching rodeo. We wanted to do one of them, and it was a good thing we chose MMA. We were always rolling around, and making it look bad. We were watching (Takanori) Gomi in the Gracie's versus Japan before we were training. He's one of the guys that I was like 'Dude, he's fucking awesome. I want to do it and get to his level.'"
Once on the path, Jim said of fighting, "We turned out to be pretty good at it."
For those that have never had the desire to step inside the cage to fight, Jim attempted to describe just what that feeling is like, "It's a very unique feeling. The rush of feeling the finish coming, and getting it and that adrenaline dump afterwards, it's unique. I think it has to do with the atmosphere. You're the focus of everyone's attention and you're also in a fistfight where you might get knocked out, or you might get your arm broken. To be victorious is a huge relief, especially when you do it in awesome fashion. It's kind of addicting. The couple weeks leading up to the fight I think, 'This is awesome. I can't wait. Dammit, I have to cut weight, but I can't wait to fight. It's fun.'"
Jim said his fight night mentality has evolved over the years. Where once he was thinking, "'Fucking kill him! He's trying to hurt me!" He now tries to enter the Octagon "Relaxed and loose."
That relaxed and loose feeling was not present in Jim's tenth fight as a professional. That fight, his first with Ring of Combat was the first time Dan was not in Jim's corner, and the circumstances behind why his older brother wasn't there proved stressful for Jim.
As Jim recalled, Dan fought John Howard earlier in the night on that November 2007 fight card, and Howard broke Dan's zygomatic arch. Dan said he was able to walk through the punch and earn the unanimous decision victory. Once he was backstage, Dan said he felt fine, and he didn't flinch during the post-fight exam when the physician pushed on the bones in his face.
That feeling began to fade as the adrenaline began to leave Dan's system. At that point Dan told his team "'My face really hurts." Dan recalled, "It kept getting progressively worse, and then it was 'Holy shit, my face hurts!' Then I looked in the mirror and I thought 'Oh my God, there's something wrong,' and I didn't know what was going on. So, I said ‘somebody better get the doctor.'"
Dan was whisked off to the hospital, and Jim was left without the one constant that had been with him since his first professional fight, "Not having that comfort was a little trippy," Jim said. "It was something I had to overcome, and when I did that it made the rest of the fights easier, and it changed the approach on the way that I fight."
Adding some insult to that injury was the fact that Dan was getting married the Sunday following the Friday night fight with Howard. He was also scheduled to fly out to Las Vegas on Monday for interviews for season seven of The Ultimate Fighter.
The wedding went off without a hitch because the swelling from the broken zygomatic arch hid the divot in Dan's face. The trip to Vegas didn't happen because Dan had to undergo surgery that Monday to repair the injury.
The broken zygomatic arch may have been a blessing in disguise because Dan would get the call to join the UFC less than a year later, never having to set foot inside the TUF house.
When the walk to the Octagon begins, that's when the fun starts for Jim. At that point Jim said, "I'm just looking forward to getting to do what I've dedicated my life to. I don't have to fight - I get to fight. I'm just looking to hopefully show off the skills that I've been developing over the last nine years."
Once the walk is made, and Jim steps into the cage, he said he knows what he's in for. He has no expectation that he's going to walk out of the Octagon without accumulating some damage, "I expect to be hurt," Jim said. "I expect to feel pain and discomfort when I'm in there. It's like a swimmer getting wet, it's bound to happen."
And you know what? He's totally fine with that, as long as he leaves the Octagon knowing he gave his best, "We compete in a sport that's dictated by microseconds and fractions of inches where the difference between a knockout punch and punch that misses - you're talking about hitting nerves," Jim said. "So, I'm bound to get knocked out, I'm bound to get choked out, but if I give 100 percent effort up until that point I can look in the mirror and be okay with whatever happens."
Ahead of his fight at UFC 172, Jim pointed out that the only thing he asks from his cornermen is honesty, "That's the only thing that I need in the corner," Jim said. "I don't need guys fluffing me up in the corner, and you hear that when guys are getting their ass kicked sometimes. I wouldn't say that to him (points to Dan). If he needs to be yelled at, sometimes that's what he needs to hear. Sometimes that's what I need to hear, and he's not afraid to say it to me. And the other two guys, they know if they need something from me, that they can say it, and I'm not going to blame them for any slip up of mine inside the cage or blame them for being honest with me. I don't need to be babied - I'm in a cage fight."
Dan echoed Jim's feelings on the importance of a cornerman being completely honest during that one minute they have to get a message into their fighter's head between rounds, "By me telling him, 'you lost those two rounds, you need this.' That's not going to break him mentally," said Dan. "I know if he needs to hear the truth, if he's getting his ass kicked, and I tell him 'Wake the fuck up, you have five minutes to win this fight, that's all you got, you have to go out and finish this.' I hate when people tell their fighters that they won a round. I don't want to hear that I won a round, I just want to hear what's going on, and what I should be doing."
When the fight does come to an end, Jim said in a best-case scenario his cornermen will have one more job to do, "I want to be exhausted, I want them to carry me out."
Jim pointed to two fights where he left the cage in a state of exhaustion. The worst case was his UFC 159 fight with Pat Healy, Jim recalled, "I gassed. It was the first time I ever gassed in competition in my entire life. I could barely walk and it took me an hour to finally start feeling better. I was puking in the shower."
The one positive of that time spent throwing up in the shower, according to Jim was that it presented a bonding moment with his team, "That's another moment where you get close with your team when you're naked and yakking," Jim said with a smile.
The other fight that left Jim drained was his UFC 155 fight against Joe Lauzon, "That was a different feeling," said Jim. "I just went as hard as I could, and I was ready to fight, and I got done with the fight and my body felt like I had sprinted for 15 minutes. But by the time I walked out of the cage my breath was back and my heart rate went down I couldn't really stand after that fight, but everything else was working so I was able to recover pretty quickly."
Leaving the cage exhausted does have its benefits. First, a fighter knows they left everything they had in the Octagon. In the two cases Jim cited, he also earned Fight of the Night bonus honors.
Several times Jim referred to what he does for living as being in the "pain business." However, that doesn't mean the time spent inside the cage is absent moments of levity. For Dan that moment came during his UFC 114 fight against Michael Bisping.
Dan was struggling to take Bisping to the mat, and when he went to his corner between rounds, Mike Constantino got in Dan's face about his inability to gain the takedown. As Dan said, "Mike got in my face and yelled at me, and I yelled back at him, and he got mad. He was said, "You gotta take him down!' and I said, "I'm fucking trying!' I was just frustrated."
Jim's memorable moment also included Constantino, "When I fought Joe Lauzon, Mike was in my corner with Martin Rooney and my dad. Mike was alpha-maling it up and he yelled at me between the second and third round because I took him (Lauzon) down," Jim recalled.
The reason for the takedown was that Jim was getting tired. He was also confident that he would find success on the ground against Lauzon. However a takedown and ground fight was not what Jim's coach wanted to see.
Esther Lin for MMAFighting
Jim put Constantino's yelling at him to the back of his mind for the remainder of the fight. Jim then recalled how the moment that followed played out, "After the fight, I was exhausted and briefly used Joe as a pillow, which I still feely real bad about. I got up, sat down against the cage and Mike comes jumping up in my face and I just went 'whack' and I smacked him. Not really hard because I didn't have anything left, then I grabbed him by the face and said, 'If you ever yell at me again, I'm gonna kick your ass.' I know he was yelling at me because I was winning the stand up - I still love the guy."
While it's rare that individual voices can break through the din during the course of a fight, Dan said an exception does exist to that rule. According to Dan that exception is Renzo Gracie, "For some reason you can hear every word he says," said Dan. "He has the most distinctive voice. He was in my corner twice for the IFL and you could hear every word he said."
Quickly agreeing with his brother, Jim said, "When I defended my Cage Fury title against Anthony Morrison, it was the first time he was ever in my corner and we had never trained with him at that point, but he knew everything that I was about to do, and he's got that voice that is so clear and so concise. I understand he is a master of the game, but he shouldn't be in my head. He knew everything that I was about to do, and it was not even funny. It was like he was commentating before everything was happening."
Pointing out just how clear and distinct Gracie's voice is, Jim said, "If he was ordering a pizza I would pick out everything he was saying even though it was unrelated to fighting."
With that anecdote hanging in the air, the Miller brothers headed out to the hotel lobby where the brothers signed autographs and posed for photos with fans before heading out for dinner with their wives.
Part 4 of this series will be published on Thursday, May 1.