Fortunate Son: Jim Miller exclusive interview with MMAmania

Photo via UFC

While it's become almost ritual to hear Creedence Clearwater Revival blasting through the arena when Jim Miller walks to the cage, there may, perhaps, be an even more suitable song for the New Jersey fighter:

"Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

You won't find Jim Miller dazzling audiences during a UFC fan Q&A like Chael Sonnen, taunting Brazilians and creating controversy. That's not the type of man he is, nor the man he'll ever be.

The only talking the AMA Fight Club trainee does is with his fists, his knees, his blisteringly quick submissions and he's been very loud lately during his seven-fight win streak inside the UFC's Octagon. That seven-fight win streak puts him in some very prestigious company, men like Junior dos Santos, Jon Fitch, Georges St. Pierra, Anderson Silva and even Royce Gracie. 

With a win tonight (August 14, 2011) in the co-main event of UFC on Versus 5 against former WEC lightweight champion Ben Henderson, Miller will quite possibly be assured a title shot at the winner of Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard 3.

Perhaps the next top lightweight contender spoke with MMAmania.com in the lead-up to his extremely important fight with Henderson, discussing topics ranging from men who talk trash, his developing skill-set and some of the highlights of his current run in the division.

No pressure, of course.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've been an incredibly humble guy and you haven't ever really called anyone out. What do you think of guys that do that? People that put their words out, build press and maybe get fights they wouldn't normally deserve based on their skills alone.

Jim Miller: That's their way. I was basically brought up on sports. The guys that I was big fans of when I was a kid were guys like Walter Peyton and Mike Singletary. The Bears winning the Superbowl, I was very young and impressionable when that happened and these guys had an impact on me. They were the best at what they did and that was it. They said all they had to say on the field and that's the type of guy I am and I make my statements fighting inside the Octagon. Outside the Octagon, I'm a father and a husband. A son and a brother. 

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Yeah, I fully understand. You've always been the guy that lets your actions speak louder than any words.

Jim Miller: I try to get attention through the way I fight, not through what I claim to be able to do. Stuff like that. 

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In the Kamal Shalorus fight, you seemed much more comfortable striking on the feet, moving in and out of range effectively. In particular, you seem to really like kneeing people in the face as hard as you can. Can you tell me when the stand-up really clicked for you?

Jim Miller: It has been recently. Just this year, I really started to feel a little more comfortable with my balance and my framing while striking. I was actually talking with this kid Nick that I do my striking with and there's two voices going on inside my head. One is saying, "plant yourself, throw confident and hard strikes. Take your time" and then there's that other side of my head that's saying, "go, go, go, go!" 

Sometimes I feel like I'm more comfortable and I'm a better striker when I'm actually taking my time. I see those openings a little better instead of just going forward and using pressure to create an opening, punching in volume. Just this last year I started to feel really good.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): As part of your time in the UFC, you and especially your brother have taken part in a lot of short notice fights. Can you explain the mechanics involved in a short notice fight? You get the call, someone tells you that some opponent is out, they have a new guy. What happens after that?

Jim Miller: It depends on how short it is. With my fight against Matt Wiman, it was a week, eight days actually. I hadn't been doing much. I'd only been training a handful of times since my previous fight six or seven weeks prior. Right away it was like, "alright, let's see what I can do." Go in, push a really hard three rounds and see how bad it hurts basically. I knew I could do it, go in there and fight for three rounds even though I hadn't been on a mat. Then it depends on who's fighting. There is pressure but there's different pressures because you're not having to be focusing on fighting somebody so you're basically a little more free and more relaxed.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When that happens, do you basically say yes or no right away or do you call someone and talk it over? Do you do things any differently than your brother would because he's taken several fights on short notice too?

Jim Miller: I've really only had the one in the UFC but yeah, it's pretty much ok with us. I just had a talk with my manager Mike Constantino so that one was good. Dan's had it a bit differently. He's fought on six week's notice, sometimes had opponent's change a little closer to the fight, stuff like that. The way that we coach it is, when you're training for a fight, you're training to get yourself better and so your opponent has to fight you as opposed to training for a specific fighter or grappler or something like that. You never know what's gonna happen with somebody pulling out. As long as you're ready to fight, it doesn't matter who you're fighting in my opinion.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Ok, moving on to the Oliveira fight. It ended in a pretty spectacular kneebar. What I noticed most about that sub was the fundamental grappling before it that led up to that opportunity. Can you walk me through what you were thinking when he was attacking from the guard? Were you looking to bait him into anything in particular or was the chain of submission attempts that he threw at you, was that something you were able to anticipate a little bit?

Jim Miller: Yeah, it was. We hit the mat and I hit him with a really good elbow that stunned him for a couple seconds. He got back into it and it was basically feeling him out, feeling how explosive he is, how strong he is. I knew I could overpower him and when he started going for stuff, it was predictable to be perfectly honest. I knew what was coming and I never felt uncomfortable or in danger. I was dealing with what he was presenting and was basically just biding my time and waiting for him to open up on something which would give me my opening. When I stood up, he did start to try to attack my leg and I had an underhook on his leg and I saw my opening so I pounced on it. 

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You definitely did. That was so fantastic and quick. What to you is the difference between a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt in today's MMA and a black belt? Does belt rank really have any true meaning in the cage?

Jim Miller: You know, with strikes involved, it really doesn't that much. A purple belt is very skilled and should be very good at basic guardwork, the omaplata and have a good skill-set. Similarly, a black belt is gonna have a little more adaptability and be a little more unpredictable with their movements but when you throw strikes into the mix, that's where it changes the game too. Also, nowadays, athleticism is a huge part of it as well. You can be technically better than someone but if they're stronger and faster than you, then you're in for a rough night. The days of Royce Gracie coming in at 180 pounds and subbing 260 pound men, those days are over. It's 50/50 technique and athleticism these days.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You started getting into athleticism there and your opponent Ben Henderson relies on that a lot with his explosion and strikes, being able to power out of submission attempts. How would you compare your athleticism to Henderson's now that you've had some time to look over his fights?

Jim Miller: I think we're pretty similar. We both keep a high pace and are able to see those openings quickly and attack in those short openings. He's very good at it and I'm expecting him to be a strong, explosive 155 pounder.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Were you able to take anything away from his performance against Mark Bocek at UFC 129? He had some nice work on the ground and was able to stifle a lot of what Bocek was doing. He also had some very powerful knee attacks in the stand-up department.

Jim Miller: Yeah, I watched the fight. I was there for it and he fought well but we're different fighters. I'm a different fighter than Mark and I'm bringing a different skill-set. I really don't put that weight into his performance against Mark. He's great at getting out of tough submissions, but he's also the type of guy that puts himself in those types of situations. If you play with fire long enough, you're bound to get burned. I think he fought Mark pretty conservatively, didn't really open up and was able to control the fight. I think he's a guy that's gonna fight intelligently and follow a gameplan and that's the biggest thing that I pulled from the fight. 

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It seems like every time there's any interview in the past couple months, somebody's asking you about a title shot. Does that get tiring? Is that something that's important to you at this moment or are you entirely focused on Henderson?

Jim Miller: I'm entirely focused. Every fight is important. I was focused on my last fight and the fight before that and the fight before that. Every fight can have implications on your career. Whether good or bad. I'm not looking past anybody and if the win earns me a right to fight for the world title, then fantastic. I'm not gonna let myself slip up and look past my opponent. People have been saying that this is the biggest fight of my career, but of course every fight is big. I wouldn't be here if I'd lost any extra fights along the way in my career.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Another common theme is that your two career losses have been to both Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard via decision. Which of those two losses has stuck with you the most? Which one stings a little more?

Jim Miller: The fight with Gray stings a little more. When I fought Frankie, the gym I was training at closed down two weeks before and I went out there and I fought pretty well. I put just about everything I had into that fight. With skill-sets and training camps and everything, I pretty much gave it all I had so I'm a little more content with that fight. The fight with Gray, I made mistakes training for him, I made mistakes inside the Octagon. One of the first punches he landed broke my nose and you tell yourself that if anything like that ever happens, you won't let it happen because there's guys that won when they were beat up or had a broken arm, stuff like that. The reason those are memorable is because they're rare and the reason they're rare is when something like that happens, it sucks. That fight, I'm a little more bitter about that loss.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know Frankie trains near you in the New Jersey area and you've trained with him in the past. Do you have an investment in who wins that next fight? I know you said the loss to Maynard stung more, but is there a guy you're rooting for more in the upcoming title fight?

Jim Miller: I'm a fan of Frankie Edgar. I love watching him fight. He's tough as nails and some people give him a bad rap but he's aggressive. He's always in there fighting and trying to put the pressure on guys. I enjoy watching him fight and I hope he wins all his fights until he gets a rematch with me.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I'm always on the hunt for funny training stories, stuff like that. I've heard some crazy stories about Renzo Gracie or Ryan Gracie from interviews in the past. Is there anything that you guys ever joke about, some tale that you wouldn't mind sharing?

Jim Miller: Well we're a pretty tight knight group of guys, always busting each other's balls. Nothing crazy comes to mind but I've been mistaken for a couple people over the years and it's been pretty funny. I was down in Tennessee doing a commercial for one of Constantino's partners down there and they had this whole big advertisement that they were gonna be filming this commercial. They had a bunch of people show up that didn't train there and they just wanted to be in the commercial. We're doing these little shoots and this guy comes over to me going, "oh my God! I cant' believe I'm in the same room as you," and really going crazy, totally laying it on. Then he goes, "I can't believe I'm standing next to Matt Hughes!" I broke his heart when I told him the truth. (laughs)

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How would you like this fight with Ben Henderson to finish on Sunday night?

Jim Miller: Quickly and violently. I don't really like expecting fights to be boring or close. I want to go out there and dominate every opponent I have. The quicker the better. Put him away early.

Jim would like to thank his trainers and training partners at AMA Fight Club. Also Martin Rooney who's helped him a lot over the past couple years. 

Tree Frog contributed to this interview

So what do you think Maniacs?

Will Miller get his wish and have a quick and violent fight tonight? Or will Ben Henderson be up to the task and make this a longer drawn-out affair?

Opinions, please.

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