Jim Miller, UFC Lightweight: He’s Not Flying Under the Radar for Long
A changing of the guard in the UFC Lightweight Division has pushed the previously obscure 155-pound weight class front and center in a number of discussions throughout the mixed martial arts world right now.
When discussing the athletes that make up this dynamic class at the bottom of the UFC scale, the roll call usually includes the same big names:
- current champion Frankie Edgar
- former champion B.J. Penn
- contender Gray Maynard
- contender Kenny Florian
- contender Clay Guida
- emerging challenger Evan Dunham
- emerging challenger Ross Pearson
New Jersey native Jim Miller is usually lost in the shuffle, despite sporting a 6-1 record inside the Octagon. This is not necessarily how the process works. Consider that one impressive performance vaulted former Pride star Takanori Gomi into the title picture, yet Miller’s four-fight winning streak has produced little headway for the 27-year-old with the 17-2 record. Though consistently being overlooked and unappreciated may frustrate others, Miller takes it all in stride, focusing instead on earning another (possibly unnoticed?) victory Wednesday night against Gleison Tibau.
“I’m pretty sure that all my peers know who I am and have respect for me,” suggested Miller when questioned about his consistent lack of attention in the lightweight title conversation. “I think I’ve proven that they should keep an eye on me. If you look at the Internet and all that stuff, it’s a little like, ‘C’mon guys – can’t you give me a little respect?’ but I don’t really care what anybody on the Internet is saying.”
Miller’s Track Record Merits Consideration
His lone UFC loss was in a fight against #1 contender Gray Maynard at UFC 96: “Jackson vs. Jardine” in 2009 in Columbus, Ohio. His only other professional defeat came at the hands of current UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar back in November 2006 at Reality Fighting 14 in Atlantic City.
Additionally, the recently-promoted Jiu-Jitsu black belt aims to finish all his fights. He has stated he and takes no joy in earning a decision, and sides with the UFC push to remove fight results from the judges’ hands.
“It wasn’t surprise, it was disappointment,” Miller said of his reaction after earning a decision win over Mark Bocek at UFC 111. “I had opportunities to finish the fight and I failed to do so. A lot of guys say they fight for a finish and they don’t like going to a decision, but then they get all happy when they win a decision.
“You won’t see me ever – EVER – getting happy winning a decision,” Miller emphatically continued. “I’m very hard on myself and I know that if I compete the way I should, and do what I’m capable of doing, I don’t think anybody should be able to go the distance with me. I think I should be able to finish everybody I fight.”
Opportunity to Prove Himself
Miller will get his next opportunity to prove himself on Wednesday, September 15th at UFC Fight Night 22, opposite American Top Team trainee Gleison Tibau, who Miller correctly points out is the biggest competitor in the lightweight division. The chiseled former welterweight competitor Tibau brings a three-fight winning streak of his own to the table in Texas, and though Tibau has looked strong of late, Miller has reportedly identified some key weaknesses in Tibau’s fighting style that should help him earn his fifth straight win inside the Octagon.
“He’s a tough fight for anybody in our weight class I think. He hits hard and he’s dangerous with subs, so he’s not an easy fight,” Miller stated in his assessment of Tibau. “It seems that he gets out-paced sometimes, and the guys who have beaten him have used their wrestling and been able to frustrate him and wear him down a little.
“It seems like a pretty good match-up if I can play my game and get after him and not make any mistakes,” added Miller, diagnosing how to add another win to his resume. While pushing his record to 7-1 under the UFC banner should vault Miller into the title discussion, he’s not ready to change his approach to things to accelerate his move up the lightweight ladder.
“It’s a popularity thing,” Miller responded when asked if the perception of a fighter as a contender changing after one performance grows tiresome, especially for someone who has put together six wins in seven appearances. “I’m just a soft-spoken, sit in the back of the room, you’d never know I’m there kind of guy. I’m sure if I voiced my opinions or started calling guys out then I’d get a little more press and recognition.”
But that isn’t Miller’s style, and it isn’t about to be any time soon.
The Quiet Contender?
“If I keep winning, nobody can really deny that,” offered the AMA Fight Club member. “I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing; fighting my fights and trying to get the job done and sub guys. Call it old school or whatever, but there are plenty of guys who just go out there, do their job and that’s all you hear of them. I’m one of those guys.
“It really doesn’t matter what I say, I don’t think,” added Jim Miller. “I’d rather just walk the walk.”
There is no distance Miller isn’t willing to go either. “If I put together another four or five wins and the opportunities don’t come then talk to me about it,” Miller laughed. “But right now, I’m still working my way up there, there are still plenty of guys that I haven’t fought, so just line them up and I’ll get after them.”
Gleison Tibau is at the front of the line for now. With a win Wednesday night, Miller could be looking at names like Dunham, Sherk, Guida or Gomi in the coming months.
He might stop flying under the radar too.