Sunday April 27, 2014
BALTIMORE - Jim Miller strolled through Baltimore's Inner Harbor on a bright and sunny Sunday morning. Jim, accompanied by his wife, Angel, was less than twelve hours removed from his first round submission win over Yancy Medeiros at UFC 172. The couple was on their way to grab some breakfast with family before making the drive back to his home in New Jersey.
On Saturday night Jim had dispatched Medeiros via guillotine choke at the 3:18 mark of the first round. The win was Jim's 13th as a UFC lightweight, tying him for most wins in the promotion's 155 pound division with Gleison Tibau. The fight ending submission also put Jim in a first place tie for most UFC submission attempts (31) with the retired Chris Lytle.
Prior to facing Medeiros, Jim watched as his teammate at AMA Fight Club, Charlie Brenneman was knocked out by Danny Castillo. Asked how that affected him, Jim remarked, "It sucks watching. Charlie's like family. I've bled and sweat and cried with the guy in training, but I've also gone through some difficult things in fighting."
With that, Jim went on to describe his most difficult pre-fight moment, "I fought immediately after Dan when he went out and lost, and it was also on what would have been his daughter's second birthday. (Dan's daughter, Alexis passed away one day after her birth in 2009) So to see him go out and fight with a broken heart and still have to fight, that was the hardest thing I ever had to do in fighting. Fortunately, I'm capable of focusing in when that cage door closes behind me."
When his fight against Medeiros came to a close, two comments that Jim made earlier in the week came to mind. The first was that you never see him smile if a fight goes to a decision. The second was if his opponent was still standing, Jim felt he had not done his job.
There was a huge smile plastered on Jim's face at the end of his UFC 172 bout, and not only was Medeiros not standing - he was not conscious.
Jim described the moment when he knew he wasn't going to need a second submission attempt on Medeiros, "I knew I had him cinched up pretty good, and the thought went through my head, 'If it's not going to be there, what am I going to need to do?' But as soon as I had that thought I was able to fall back to my right hip and from there I had a nice angle, and he started to do a little bit of a panic squirm, and I knew that he was either tapping or he was going out."
Many fighters would have been happy with the performance Jim put on at UFC 172. He walked away with the win. He was hit only nine times during the fight, and he didn't absorb much damage. He tied two UFC records. He earned back-to-back (first round) submission wins in the first time in his UFC career.
Despite those accomplishments, the man who has claimed he is in search of the perfect performance found some faults with how things went against Medeiros, "I wasn't totally sure he how hurt he was with the body shot," said Jim. "Thinking back I would have liked to maybe try to strike him a little more because I had him hurt. I'm pleased with the outcome, but I still wish I would have gauged where he was at better."
The fight was Jim's 29th as a professional (24-4-0-1). Jim's mother, Barbara, said she doesn't get as nervous as she once did when Jim fights because she knows her son is more than capable of handling himself inside the cage.
Jim's father, Mike, echoed that feeling, saying he knows that Jim has trained hard and that he's always fully prepared when he steps into fight. However, he added, "It's still a fight, and anything can happen."
Maybe that's why Mike always checks for his Rolaids before his son steps into the Octagon, as he said, there's always a point where the "Butterflies turn into bats" before Jim fights.
Jim's father also said he serves as "Crowd and wife" control on fight nights, saying of his wife, "She used to get really crazy."
Mike relayed one example of just how crazy Barbara sometimes gets when Jim is in the cage, "One show there was a 15-16 year-old boy who told her, 'Hey lady, be quiet.' She was over the railing screaming. Later Jim came up into the stands and everyone wanted a photo, and the kid stood up, and she said, ‘No photo for you.' Then he realized ‘I told Jim Miller's mom to sit down and shut up.'" After admonishing the fight fan, Barbara let him know she was only joking, and gave the young man the okay to get a photo with her son.
While the stress levels of Jim's parents have lessened over the course of their son's career, Jim's wife admitted that, "I still get very nervous. I get very quiet, and think to myself 'I know what he's capable of doing' and I always want to make sure he shows that."
As for how she feels when the fight is taking place, Angel said she has calmed down - at least a little, "I used to be pretty crazy, screaming and yelling, and now I'm very quiet until he's got a choke on, and then I'm a crazy person. It's still very hard for me. He's my husband, and the father of my kids, there's a lot at stake. In the back of my mind, I know that he can beat anybody. Again, I will him to do everything that he's capable of doing. It's a very personal for me."
One thing that adds to Angel's stress level is the fact that after the Miller's third child was born, Jim became the sole source of income for the growing family, "It's very stressful," Angel said of Jim's profession. "Before we had our third child I worked. I had a good job, and was able to pretty much support us. His money was something that we had to fall back on when I couldn't cover it. Once we had our third child I decided to stay home. I feel bad because I don't want to put the pressure on him, but on the other hand, there's a ton of pressure on him, but he's up to the challenge."
Jim acknowledged that he does feel that pressure as well, but having Angel at home with their children allows him to focus on not only fighting, but making sure his family is safe when his fighting career does come to an end, "I've made a little bit of a name for myself and it's time to start cashing in on it," Jim said with a laugh. "I'm taking some steps outside of fighting to have a career after it and reinvent myself and not just be a punch drunk fighter in five years that says, ‘Where did all my money go?' I don't want to be like that because I have a wife and three kids that are counting on me."
The first step down that road has begun, as Jim and his brother are working on opening a gym. Jim said of that endeavor, "It's a big step, a big investment both financially and time wise, and it's the first step for us as businessmen outside of fighting. You have to use the time. Fighting and most professional sports are very cruel. You kind of get used to a lifestyle and the next thing you know, it's done, and then you're kind of figuring out what to do next, and I don't want to be caught like that because I do have a family to support and protect. This is the first step to build our Miller Empire."
Some other ideas the Miller brothers have to build their post-fight empire include a brewpub, and television shows on two of Jim's hobbies, hunting and brewing beer.
Retirement is not something Jim is thinking about at this point. He's ranked No. 9 in the UFC lightweight division, and with a 3-0-1 record in his last four fights; he's looking to move up those rankings.
If you saw Jim's interview with UFC commentator Joe Rogan after UFC 172, you already know that Jim called for a fight with any of the unencumbered fighters ranked above him. You may have also noticed that prior to that interview Jim stopped to shake the hand of UFC matchmaker Joe Silva and share a few words. Jim's comments to Silva were simple, "I said I want to move up in the division, I want to fight the guys ahead of me so I can move up the ranks, and start fighting the best."
Jim said he had no preference on an opponent, and that he was willing to fight anyone ranked above him, a fact that UFC president Dana White alluded to during the UFC 172 post-fight press conference.
The fight with Medeiros ended in a strange position. After Medeiros fell unconscious referee Mario Yamasaki left Medeiros draped across Jim's body. Jim's feelings on that situation were, "It was a little awkward. I thought Mario would roll him off me, but he didn't. It felt like at least 20-30 seconds, and I thought, ‘All right, I'll raise my hands.' So, I raised my hands and he was still on top of me, and then the next thing you know, he started coming to, and he was still on top of me. It was weird. I don't know if he (Yamasaki) was waiting on the doctor, or he was worried about his neck, but it was odd, and I feel bad about it because there's that picture. It's just a weird picture."
It was the second weird end of fight image for Jim in his last few fights. The first was the end of his UFC 155 fight against Joe Lauzon. When that fight ended, Jim said he was exhausted and briefly used Lauzon, "As a pillow."
Comparing the two images, Jim said he felt the Medeiros fight was a little more awkward, "At least with Joe, it kind of showed what the fight was like," said Jim. "We were both there with our eyes closed covered in blood. It was still an awkward photo that I really feel bad about, but yeah, this one was a little bit more awkward. I keep one upping myself."
On Sunday afternoon Jim and his family returned to New Jersey where the fighter said he was going to do some work on the gym, and take some time off before getting back to training. As for when he wants to return to Octagon and face one of the fighters ranked above him, Jim said, July or August would be ideal.