Personality can make or break a fighter. Sometimes it does both. The sport is filled with magnified personalities: think Brock Lesnar, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson or even one Kimbo Slice. The sport also has his unassuming personalities like lightweight fighter Jim Miller.
While Miller does not draw a lot of attention for his bravado, he is a fighter on the rise because he likes to fight… and fight often. At UFC 103, Miller will step into the octagon for the fifth time in less then a year. If it were up to Miller, it would be his sixth.
Miller was last seen bloodying the canvas with the help of Mac Danzig’s face at UFC 100. He looks to keep the momentum going at UFC 103 and climb back up the lightweight ladder since recording his only Octagon loss back at UFC 96 to an undefeated Gray Maynard.
We caught up with Jim Miller before his fight and learned what concert he would go to if he could travel back to the 1970’s, what he likes to do when he isn’t trying to submit his opponent, and we even got him to predict who he thinks will win the B.J. Penn – Diego Sanchez title fight.
Heavy.com: What kind of music does Jim Miller listen to?
Jim Miller: I listen to Country and Classic Rock. I like to have it on in the background when I am training, although I don’t have to have it on to train.
Heavy.com: I was lucky enough to be at UFC 100 where you fought Mac Danzig. Remind me what song you came out to?
Jim Miller: “Bad Moon Rising” by Credence Clearwater Revival. They are one of my favorite bands for sure.
Heavy.com: So, if you could travel back in time and listen to one band in their heyday…
Jim Miller: Definitely Lynyrd Skynyrd. That is a tough question. There are a lot of great bands from that era.
Heavy.com: Back to country music… how did you get into that? I know you’re from the East Coast where country music is not as popular as it is down south.
Jim Miller: I actually got into country music when I went down to college at Virginia Tech. I got immersed in country music down there and it has stuck with me ever since.
Brian Oswald: Comedy is an important part of everyone’s life… what makes you laugh?
Jim Miller: I will laugh at anything. I am a typical guy. I like dirty jokes and other college humor. Farts still make me laugh. My brother Dan and I crack each other up. We pull a few pranks on each other but we bust each other’s balls more then anything. We do the same with our training partners like Frankie Edgar. It’s fun to go back and forth.
Brian Oswald: MMA is known for having its own style with all the MMA clothing companies. How would you describe your style?
Jim Miller: Very casual. I don’t really look at clothes as fashion really. I look for things that are useful. I am a big hunter actually so I am not concerned about looking nice. Give me something that is waterproof.
Heavy.com: Where do you hunt at?
Jim Miller: I actually am able to do most of my hunting in New Jersey where I live. I would love to go down to Texas or New Mexico. Alaska would be awesome. A dream trip would be to get to go over to Africa and do some big game hunting.
Heavy.com: Beyond MMA and hunting, you get your hands into any other sports?
Jim Miller: When I was younger I enjoyed football and baseball but once I got into MMA I lost interest in everything else. I do enjoy playing slow pitch softball in the summertime. I also dirt biked a little bit but it didn’t stick with me.
Heavy.com: You worked you way up to a fight with Gray Maynard at UFC 96 which was your toughest test to date. What did you learn from your first loss in the Octagon that made you a better fighter?
Jim Miller: I made a mistake of working with a new trainer a few weeks out which left me in a weird spot for that fight. I got lazy with my takedowns in that fight. I wasn’t nearly as aggressive as I needed to be.
Heavy.com: Looking at your most recent fight at UFC 100…can you tell us about the experience of being on the biggest fight card in MMA history? Was it a big deal to you to be on that card?
Jim Miller: For me it was another fight card and another fight. I have to block out all the hoopla and concentrate on the guy I am fighting. When I was there though… the hype was huge and the town was buzzing. The fans were fantastic. It was a pretty cool experience. Defintely more amped then your average fight cards, which are amped to begin with.
Heavy.com: Do you like fighting in Vegas, or did you prefer somewhere like Ohio where you fought at for UFC 96?
Jim Miller: Overall, it doesn’t matter where I am fighting. Honestly, the thing I like the most about Vegas is everything is done in the same building (laughs). It does make it easy to stay focused on the task at hand.
Heavy.com: You beat an opponent in Mac Danzig who was the Season Six winner of The Ultimate Fighter. When you go into a fight do you think about whom your opponent is and what he has accomplished coming into the fight?
Jim Miller: I definitely knew who he was leading up to the fight. I don’t think too much about where beating so and so will put me in the division. I focus on what he is going to bring into the fight and what I need to prepare for; what their tendencies are.
Heavy.com: It was an entertaining fight for the fans… very back and forth. It actually got bloody which made it hard for you to sink in your submission attempts. Were you thinking you were going to finish the fight or were you just happy to get the judges decision?
Jim Miller: When I go into a fight, my goal is to finish guys. I don’t like to win by decision. It doesn’t excite me. When I had his back I really wanted to finish with a choke. It did get slippery in the fight. When I locked in that choke he was able to twist his hips and take all the pressure off of it.
Heavy.com: Looking to your fight at UFC 103 in Dallas, TX, I don’t want to say it’s a letdown but to go from fighting Mac Danzig at UFC 100 to fighting an unknown newcomer fighter… how does that play on your mind?
Jim Miller: Well I was supposed to be fighting Thiago Tavares which would have been a tough fight for me. Unfortunately, he got hurt so I have the opponent I have. But they are bringing in Steve Lopez for a reason. He is a tough kid. I don’t know a lot about him though which makes him dangerous.
That actually excites me, not knowing a lot about my opponent, because I want to see what he brings. I am getting to fight, which is what I love to do. It is my fifth UFC fight in under a year so I know a lot of guys would love to be in that position. I don’t like taking time off, so it works out great for me.
Heavy.com: How important is a title shot… is that something you think about often?
Jim Miller: My mentality starts with: I want to fight the best. And so the best guys either have or are fighting for the title. So that is my goal. I like the idea of being on the top of the mountain and all newcomers trying to come and kick my ass. You are always going to have a good fight that way. But I just look it at one fight at a time.
Heavy.com: I think it is your fight anyone, anywhere attitude that has made you a fan favorite: especially when you came in on a week’s notice to fight Matt Winman at “Fight for the Troops.” Joe Silva can pretty much call you up on a moment notice and have you fight.
Jim Miller: Well I appreciate that. Yeah, like I said, I love to fight. The weight cut actually sucked for that fight but I got over it.
Heavy.com: What do you walk around at when you are not cutting weight?
Jim Miller: I actually walk around in the high 170’s which surprises a lot of people. They think I am a smaller lightweight. I have added some muscle to my frame. There are a lot of bigger lightweights in the division. Penn, Sanchez, Sherk and Florian have all fought at higher weight classes so you have to stay competitive with your strength.
They have always said that technique is better then strength but strength and technique together is a lot better then just technique. When two guys are equal on technique the stronger guy has the advantage in that he can wear down his opponent. There is nothing wrong with being big and strong in your division.
Heavy.com: It seems with the influx of new athletes that is only something that will continue to grow in significance.
Jim Miller: Definitely. This sport is just going to keep getting better and better athletes. I just started training for MMA four years ago. I grew up wrestling but nothing spectacular. And I am competing in the UFC which is the pinnacle of the sport.
By the time I am thirty-two, which is in six years, you’re going to have kids that started training when they are twelve in 2000, that will be able to start competing in MMA fights. And they have been training specifically for this sport when they are young kids. Training for a sport when you are younger and you have those reflexes is something you can’t put a price on.
The days of Randy Couture and these other older guys still competing are going to be long gone in the next few years. I think thirty-five will be an old MMA fighter in the next few years. The sport is still in such infancy; in ten years the sport is going to look totally different.
Heavy.com: Do you plan on watching this next season of The Ultimate Fighter?
Jim Miller: Probably not. I usually train at night when the show comes on. I’m not much of a big TV person either. I will catch reruns but I won’t be dedicated to following it week by week. I do love watching the old UFC fights on SPIKE TV though. I love watching the actual sport.
Heavy.com: Do you have a prediction on your division’s upcoming title fight between B.J. Penn and Diego Sanchez at UFC 107?
Jim Miller: I think that BJ is going to beat the crap out of him. I don’t think Diego has the striking to match B.J. and once it hits the matt B.J will overwhelm him. Diego always keeps coming… he has great cardio and keeps a great pace, so in the past you’d think he could wear down B.J. but in his last fight with Florian, that was a different B.J Penn.
He looked so much more physically developed. His legs were huge. He looks to have definitely turned a corner. We talked about strength and technique, B.J has always had the technique but now he has the strength and the conditioning, he looks like he will be a total force going forward.
Heavy.com: How does someone in the division compete with a guy like B.J. Penn who seems like he is shaping up to be unstoppable?
Jim Miller: You have to fight with nothing to lose. Throw everything you have at him and hope it’s enough. You have to put it all on the line and go balls to the wall.
Heavy.com: Well, it looks like we’re winding down. Good luck with the rest of your training and we look forward to you seeing you fight down in Dallas, TX at UFC 103.
Jim Miller: Thanks man, I appreciate it.
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