Victory is Miller’s primary objective
Mixed martial arts is a sport prone to speculation. We wonder who would win imagined match-ups across weight classes, how good an emerging young talent will be in two or three years, and where a win will put a certain fighter in the divisional pecking order.
Heading into UFC 128 this weekend, lightweight Jim Miller is the focus of some of that speculation, as he puts his six-fight winning streak and top 5 standing in the division on the line against WEC convert Kamal Shalorus. Many wonder whether a win, coupled with Dennis Siver’s upset win over George Sotiropoulos last month in Australia, would vault the Whippany, New Jersey native to the top of the list of contenders in the 155-pound division.
Miller is not one for wondering what it all would mean. He has one focus heading into his second UFC fight in his home state: earn a victory over Shalorus. The rest, he believes, will sort itself out.
“To be honest, none of it really matters to me right now. It will matter to me [after UFC 128] and we’ll go from there, but for right now, I’ve got one thing on my mind, I’ve got one goal in mind and that’s to beat Shalorus.
“[Sotiropoulos] losing to Siver? Yeah it could change things, pending a win, but I’m not the type to really think about things like that. Every fight is a big fight and I’m just focused on the task at hand right now and that’s a win on the 19th.”
Just as many experts viewed Sotiropoulos’s fight with Siver as a potential trap fight for the top contender, the same can be said of Miller’s fight on Saturday night. It’s an idea that Miller doesn’t dismiss or overlook, though he does have a way of trying to ensure he doesn’t suffer the same fate as his Australian counterpart.
“What really has gotten me as far as in the sport as I’ve come is the way I approach fighting, the way I go after it. I don’t look ahead of guys, I don’t look past fights; my main focus is on whoever I’m fighting.
“If you step into the cage with somebody or you just square up with somebody on the street, there is the opportunity of you getting your ass kicked, and it doesn’t matter who it is. One shot is all it takes to knock somebody out. One mistake is all it takes to put yourself into a submission, so I look at everybody as dangerous and I have respect for everybody I’ve stepped in there to fight.”
Despite having far more experience than his opponent, Miller is quick to admit that Shalorus poses a serious threat on Saturday night in Newark.
“The two guys I’ve lost to where better wrestlers than I am, and he’s a better wrestler than I am. So for me, it’s a can I get passed somebody who’s going to be able to have a better shot at dictating where the fight goes? [situation]. Am I going to be able to take him down in the flurry of punches? Am I going to be able to out-strike him or sub him out when we do hit the mat? I sure as hell haven’t looked past this guy and I’m planning on proving something to myself.”
In proving something to himself, Miller hopes that he will also prove to the UFC brass and the fans that he has earned the opportunity to compete against the very best of the lightweight division. Although he’s only lost to the two men who will once again vie for the UFC lightweight title at UFC 130, champion Frankie Edgar and #1 contender Gray Maynard, Miller has yet to receive a truly high profile opponent.
Most fighters who have amassed an 8-1 record inside the Octagon, 19-2 overall, and have only lost to the elite of the division would be showcased and groomed for future opportunities, but not Miller. Despite quickly submitting highly touted prospect Charles Oliveira at UFC 124 in December, it was Miller’s petitioning for a premier challenger that brought him above the radar, not his performance in the cage. It’s a situation Miller believes happens all too often in his sport.
“I think a win here, coupled with Sotiropoulos losing, I have to get the respect after this. Unfortunately, it seems that because of me asking for a shot at the top guys, that got me a little more respect. I was hoping it would be the win and not the words coming out of my mouth, but I think I have to be considered as one of the top guys in the UFC.
“Look at these other sports: there are plenty of fantastic football players, but the guys that get the most attention are the ones that do stupid things and say stupid things. For me it’s enough already; I watch sports for the sport itself. I watch fighting because I want to see guys that have dedicated themselves to the sport and show supreme technique, talent and toughness, but I think in this day and age, it’s gotten a little bit out of hand with the over-dramatization of everything, and it’s getting a little ridiculous.”
Others in the lightweight ranks have gained attention and climbed the ladder by talking more and winning less, but that doesn’t matter to Miller. While the UFC commentary team will speculate about where a win will put him in the divisional pecking order on Saturday night, that too is not his concern.
All that matters is beating Shalorus.
“You have to win to keep moving forward. You have to win to get your short at the higher levels.”
If he emerges with another win on Saturday night, there should be nothing that keeps Miller from taking another step forward and challenging the very best in the lightweight division.