Jim Miller doesn't have a flashy nickname, an over-the-top shtick or a collection of obnoxious tattoos. And that's just fine by him because all he cares about is kicking ass, which he happens to be rather good at.
The New Jersey native simply brings his lunch pale to the cage, letting his hard work in the gym do all the talking when the action starts. He has been perfect (2-0) ever since joining the UFC in late 2008, earning a reputation as tough competitor who takes on all comers ... even if it means he only has eight days to prepare (see Wiman, Matt).
No good deed in the UFC goes unpunished.
So Miller once again finds himself in the spotlight this evening on the televised main card at UFC 96: "Jackson vs. Jardine" opposite undefeated The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 5 alum, Gray Maynard. It's an opportunity that could catapult him into the upper echelon of the division with a win, as well as make turn the doubters out there who may be sleeping on his skills into believers.
He knows it won't be easy because nothing ever is in the fight game. But he's bigger and badder than ever before. And this time he has had time to prepare, ensuring that he is ready to bully "The Bully" later this evening.
We recently caught up with Miller to discuss the fight against Maynard, his training, the 155-pound division, his brother (and fellow UFC employee) Dan, obscurity and much more. If you haven't heard about Dan Miller then wake up and turn on your television sets this evening ... he's the real deal. And he has the chance to prove it in just a few hours.
So let's get cracking before showtime is upon us:
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Jim. Let's start by talking about what it feels like to be fighting for the best show in town, the UFC.
Jim Miller: My experience with the UFC has been great. When I started fighting this is always where I wanted to be, fighting the best guys around inside the Octagon. It's actually kind of surreal sometimes when I really think about it.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): You've been on quite a tear recently, winning your last eight fights since a loss to Frank Edgar back in 2006. Tell us about your journey during this span and how the loss to Edgar played into that if at all.
Jim Miller: That loss to Frankie was more than two years ago. It was a difficult time for me in terms of training -- the gym where I was training at the time closed its doors just two weeks before the fight. So after that loss I began training at AMA with my brother, Dan, Mike Constantino, Jamie Cruz and the rest of the team. We've been bringing in tons of great talent ever since -- great coaches and great fighters. It's basically snowballed to where it is now, which is a fantastic atmosphere to train in. So obviously I have improved greatly since that loss to Frankie and I learned from it. I vowed to myself never to make the mistakes I made before and during that fight again.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Have you brought in anyone else to help you prepare for Gray Maynard?
Jim Miller: There isn't anyone in particular who we have brought in to mimic Gray. But I have been training with Frankie -- he started working with Ricardo Almeida right after that loss. Both of our schools are Renzo Gracie affiliates. So now I get to train with a fantastic wrestler who is in the 155-pound division with me. Another guy who a train with a lot is Charlie Brenneman, who is similar to Gray. He's bigger than me -- a 170 pounder -- and another great wrestler.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): What's it feel like to be in another televised bout on a major UFC show?
Jim Miller: It's great. A lot of people are now going to get to see me do what I do and how I fight my heart out.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Have you noticed an increase in notoriety at all since your debut with the promotion and for the sparkling performances that you've turned in?
Jim Miller: The more hardcore fans are really starting to pick up on myself and my brother. With us there are no gimmicks -- we don't wear our hair funny or have crazy nicknames. We just come to fight and we do it hard.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Both you and Dan have quickly earned the reputation as being incredibly opportunistic, taking fights on short notice. What's the deal with that?
Jim Miller: We're just thrilled that the UFC signed us to fight for the organization. So if the UFC is in a pinch and needs us to step in we have no problem doing that. But I think what it all boils down to is that we love to fight. It's that simple. Waiting around for five or six months between fights sucks. That's not a position we want to be in. So if the opportunity to fight comes around -- even if it's on real short notice -- we'll step in there.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): How often do you prefer to fight?
Jim Miller: Ideally, every two or three months. I really only need about a week or so off after a fight before I'm back in the gym training.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Is there any sibling rivalry going on between you and Dan when it comes to who can fight more or who has better performances ... anything like that?
Jim Miller: We're competitive between each other, but it's not that intense. If we're training together it's always fun to try new things and catch him. We recently started training more with gis on, so it's like a new game for us. So I'll try and choke him out and hit something new every time we roll. And I'll try stuff on him that I just wouldn't do to another training partner.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Let's pretend for a second: Who wins in catchweight fight between you and Dan?
Jim Miller: (Laughs) I'd love to say I'd win the fight, but he's a lot stronger and bigger than me. I can catch him if we're doing jiu jitsu and I fair pretty well against him when we're standing up. I can also hold my own when we're wrestling. But when you put it all together and he starts grinding he'll probably wear me down and beat the crap out of me.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Speaking of Dan, he just signed a big fight to take on Yushin Okami. Talk about a huge opportunity.
Jim Miller: Yeah, definitely. Yushin is tough as hell. And the only reason he didn't get his title shot was because of that broken hand. So it's huge. This is easily the biggest fight that either of us has had in our careers. That's one of the top contenders right there. I'm excited about it and I know that Dan is very excited about it.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Okay ... let's get back to your fight against Gray. Have you watched any tape on him or anything like that to prepare?
Jim Miller: I've seen him fight a couple of times. I don't really watch too much tape on any of my opponents. I know what he has and what he does. But guys can make adjustments in camp and easily switch things up before a fight.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): He's big for 155. Where do you fit in when it comes to size as a lightweight ... is it hard for you to get down to the division weight limit?
Jim Miller: The cut is not that bad for me. My recent cuts, however, have been a bit tough because of the fights being on short notice. Usually I don't have that bad of a cut. I put on a little size recently so I'm coming into this fight against Gray a little bigger than usual. I don't think he is going to have much of a size advantage.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): With that increases size you just mentioned ... how will that be making weight this time around?
Jim Miller: Cutting weight is never fun. But the pounds will come off. I just need to rehydrate well and make sure I'm ready for Saturday.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Gray is often able to put his opponents on their backs and keep them there. How do you plan to avoid being in that situation?
Jim Miller: I never really want to be on my back because there are judges who still can't see if a fighter is winning from the bottom. But I'm perfectly comfortable there -- I've submitted guys off my back before and I can do it again. I've got a real good guard. So I'm comfortable wherever this fight goes. I think I can get the advantage everywhere, even if it means I end up on my back.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Where do you see gray in terms of the overall division picture -- is he your toughest test to date?
Jim Miller: It's definitely going to be a very tough fight for me -- Gray hasn't shown too much weakness. He controls guys really well. So I'm just going to have to go out there and go after him first like I always do. I want to push the pace and make him fight my kind of fight.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Where does a win over Gray put you in the division?
Jim Miller: I don't really know. There are just so many tough guys in this division right now. And a lot of them are coming off huge wins. I think a lot of things need to play out such as the fight between Frankie and Sean Sherk, as well as the match up between Clay Guida and Diego Sanchez. There are just so many tough guys that I can't even begin to imagine where a win might put me. Hopefully, it's in a really good spot.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Definitely ... we hope so too. Okay, Jim, we know your pressed for time so let's wrap this up. Are there any sponsors you want to thank or would you like to send your fans out there some parting words?
Jim Miller: I really want to thank Martin Rooney at Training for Warriors. He's helped me out so much this past year or so and I feel real good, getting stronger and bigger for this fight. And that's because of all the hard work I've put in with him.
Adam Wagner (MMAmania.com): Sounds good. Ok Jim that's it from us ... thanks for taking the time to speak with us at MMAmania.com and best of luck on Saturday night.
Jim Miller: My pleasure. Thank you very much.