Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) lightweight division is easily the toughest in the entire organization. To get a shot at the belt as a 155-pounder, it's necessary to go through a murderer's row of top fighters who all have the same goal in mind.
For Jim Miller, the road has been a long and arduous one to navigate. After winning a very impressive seven fights in a row, Miller's train was derailed when he ran into the eventual champion, Ben Henderson, at UFC on Versus 5, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Aug. 14, 2011.
After defeating another top contender in Melvin Guillard, when the two went toe-to-toe at UFC on FX, in Nashville, Tennessee, on Jan 20, 2012, by way of a first round submission (rear-naked choke), Miller has placed himself right back in the conversation.
The AMA Fight Club veteran will take on Nate Diaz at UFC on FOX 3, in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Sat., May 5, 2012. There has been much chatter, hinting that the winner of the fight would likely be next in line for a shot at the belt. During an interview with Spike TV's "MMA Uncensored," Miller said that he knows the possibility for a title shot is there, but he's doing his best not to look past a very game opponent:
"It's been said that I might be getting a title shot, but I honestly don't care at this point. I'm fed up talking about it. I just wanna get in and fight on the 5th. After that, we can talk about it. I try not to (look past Diaz). Nate is a tough fight, and that's where my focus lies. The title picture got so bottle-necked, with the rematches, and everybody lost. In my opinion, if you have under five UFC fights, let alone wins, you shouldn't be considered for a title shot yet."
If Miller had been in any other division, he'd probably have already had a crack at the title by now. It's just the nature of the very tough lightweight group of fighters in which he's been placed. Miller talked about what it's been like to have compete for attention with the UFC's elite:
"It's just been tied up so much in this division. If it was another weight class, I probably would have fought for a title, Melvin (Guillard) would've probably fought for a title. There were a couple guys who easily could have done it, even (Donald) Cerrone, you know, 5-0. Now, everybody's coming off losses. A win over Melvin and a win over Nate, those are good wins."
Because he isn't one of the bigger guys in his division, Miller has been subject to talk of possibly cutting more weight and moving down a weight class. Miller dispelled the rumors, assuring the hosts of "MMA Uncensored" that he would not be making a move down any time soon:
"I fought at 145 (pounds), my fourth fight, and I walked around at about 162 pounds before that fight. If you go and look at the photos of that fight, it was Reality Fighting: Battle at the Beach, it looks like my veins are gonna pop out of my skin, and I was walking around at 160 pounds. I was disgustingly vascular. It was a decently tough cut. I'm 15 pounds heavier than that now. It would take too much effort."
Miller's opponent, Nate Diaz, has been known to be a little unorthodox, particularly with his striking. That's not how Miller sees it. He believes he and his camp have a good idea of what to expect, and they are confident they've trained for all the possibilities:
"Training's been going great. I feel great. Best I've ever felt in my career. I'm healthy. Technique is there. I'm just excited to step into the Octagon against Nate Diaz. We got a couple long guys (to train against), and Nate, he's got a methodical style. He's not super flashy, so it was actually relatively easy to replicate his style."
Regardless of the outcome, the fight should end up being no easy match up for either fighter. A title shot may be the reward, but the victor will, no doubt, have to go through an all-out war before he can cross the finish line.
For complete coverage of the UFC on FOX 3: "Diaz vs. Miller" event, click here.