The UFC has been undergoing a sea change as of late. What started as Reebok uniforms and USADA testing became a change in ownership and along with it a lot of housecleaning. In the midst of these changes, it seems a few fighters are finding themselves looking for greener pastures.
More and more this has become the era of the MMA free agent, where fighters whether by choice or by force are getting to the end of their UFC contracts without a clear next step. Rory MacDonald, Matt Mitrione, and Benson Henderson are among the names who made the move to Bellator. While - through admittedly different circumstances - fighters like Mirko CroCop and Wanderlei Silva have ended up in RIZIN.
At the moment Gabriel Gonzaga, Lorenz Larkin, and Anthony Birchak are all waiting to see what their next move might look like. Will they return to the UFC, new deal in hand? Will they retire? Or will they go somewhere else, to fight under new banners? From the sound of things, Cole Miller may be the next fighter looking that uncertainty square in the face.
In a recent interview with Sherdog.com, Miller spelled out - in no uncertain terms - his recent grievances with the UFC, most notably stemming from the cancelled UFC Pasay event that was supposed to take place on October 15th.
Cole Miller: My Strained Relationship with the UFC
Wow. Cole Miller opens up about his relationship with the UFC:Posted by Sherdog on Tuesday, November 29, 2016
“It's crap,” Miller stated bluntly, when asked how he felt about having to spend so much time in camp and away from home. “I come in here, I did a full training camp - nine weeks - was away from my family, and then was on the way to the airport... That's when the hurricanes were going on down here, so I called ahead, myself, to transfer my flight and go out of Atlanta instead of down here in Fort Lauderdale, to make sure that I made my flight, that I wouldn't miss my fight. Drove all night, got into Georgia at, like four in the morning. Woke up at eight in the morning, was on the way to the airport when I got a text saying that the whole event was cancelled. I was like, ‘Aw, that sucks.’”
“Then, I got less than a third of my show money. So, I came out of the training camp, I think... Nine weeks away from my family, I think I profited $4-500. So, that worked out pretty good for me, you know. And then instead of getting re-booked two weeks later, I get re-booked two months later. So, I have to come do another, second training camp, to get paid for one. So that's what it feels like. I'm here... I don't even want to be here right now. It doesn't make me want to fight harder for my family, it makes me want to fight less. It makes me want to quit, go get a job at Starbucks or something.”
And while Miller is going to, as he put it, “just punch the clock” for the rest of his current fight camp, his future in the UFC and in MMA looks pretty uncertain right now. Whether he wins or loses, he may not be in the UFC much longer.
“I don't know. They'd have to really... This is the last fight on my contract,” Miller explained, answering if he’d take another fight immediately. “So, to renegotiate a new contract, there's a lot of work that's gotta be done. You know what!? I don't even really think they want me fighting for them, just by the way I feel like I've been treated. It's like, that's not how you take care of your people. They'll probably let me go even if I win, which... whatever.
“I've kinda been feeling it for a little bit, now and then,” Miller continued when asked if the new ownership was behind his low expectations. “I asked to go in... I requested a meeting not that long ago, to go in and meet [the new owners] in person and I was denied. They wouldn't even see me. Like I said, that's just the icing on top of it.”
For a fighter who - going into his initial camp for the UFC Pasay event - felt he had “10-12 more fights” in him, that’s a pretty abrupt shift. Maybe, with a win over Mizuto Hirota on December 17th at UFC on Fox 22, that drive will come back. Maybe, as Miller suggested, the UFC will let him go regardless. Maybe it’s time a lot of fighters started thinking more and more about their relationship with the UFC and their careers outside of the organization.