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Getting the skinny on 'Magrinho:' UFC Fight Night 18 interview exclusive with Cole Miller

Unless you’re a fan of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) series, Cole Miller might be flying under your radar. That’s because his fights inside the Octagon thus far have been slated for the preliminary portion of the card.

All that’s about to change.

Miller was one of the more promising fighters featured on TUF Season 5 — one of the better seasons of the long-running series that included such standout lightweights as Gray Maynard, Nate Diaz, Joe Lauzon and Matt Wiman (as well as the unintentional comedy of Gabe Ruediger). Miller lost a controversial quarter-final matchup against TUF 5 favorite Joe Lauzon, but rebounded at the Finale with a head kick knockout of Andy Wang.

Since then, he’s added two more Octagon victories to improve his record to 14-3 overall (3-1 in the UFC), including a "Submission of the Night" victory in his last outing against Jorge Gurgel at UFC 86. He trains out of Coconut Creek, Fla., under the tutelage of Ricardo Liborio, the famed Carlson Gracie black belt and co-founder of American Top Team, one of the best camps in all of mixed martial arts.

Miller now looks to put together back-to-back wins at UFC Fight Night 18: "Condit vs. Kampmann" on Wednesday, April 1. He’ll face none other than the controversial TUF 8 alum Junie Browning (3-0). "The Lunatik" seems to have just as many fans who love to hate him as anything else, so this matchup is being closely watched. In fact, it will be the first time "Magrinho" has appeared on the main card, despite exciting matchups in the past.

It all gets underway live from the Sommet Center in Nashville, Tenn., airing on Spike TV. The event serves as the prelude to The Ultimate Fighter Season 9: "U.S. vs. U.K.," which will feature lightweights and welterweights from the two countries competing against one another for the coveted six-figure UFC contract.

We recently caught up with Miller to ask him about his upcoming fight with the king of crazy, what lessons he takes away from his recent win over Gurgel, and how ticked off he gets when he sees inexperienced fighters with fewer than five professional fights getting their shot at the big show in the UFC.

Suffice it to say, he doesn’t pull any punches. Neither do we:

Adam Wagner ( You last fought Jorge Gurgel in a really exciting fight that earned "Submission of the Night" honors. Before you sunk in the fight-ending triangle choke, how did you feel the fight was going? Did you feel you might be behind on the judges’ scorecards?

Cole Miller: If the fight woulda went the distance, yeah. I thought that we both had a round apiece, and then I knew that I was losing the third round. So I knew that if it went the distance, he was probably going to get the decision two rounds to one.

Adam Wagner ( Did that give you any sense of urgency to set up the triangle, or was that one of those things that just fell into place — he gave you the opening, and you took it?

Cole Miller: No, I really wasn’t thinking about any of that. I was really just trying my best to kill him, to be honest with you. I went in there with a pretty extreme mentality of "fight to the death." I was looking over at the clock and doing everything I could to either knock him out or put a submission on to put him to sleep.

Adam Wagner ( With a great fight like that, what do you take away from it? What lessons do you learn from that fight to apply to your game going forward?

Cole Miller: Well, I realize that there are some things I do really well in the gym that didn’t translate very well in that fight.

Boxing defense — I mean, my offense I thought looked pretty solid — but I didn’t really move my head like I normally do in sparring. Just my overall defense wasn’t really there. Maybe it was the leg kicks he was landing that were really hard that were throwing me off. But I just let too many punches get through.

But other than that, I just fought my fight.

Adam Wagner ( You’re next slated to fight Junie Browning at Fight Night 18 on April 1. This is the first UFC event ever to be held in Tennessee. Being a native southerner, is it nice to fight a little bit closer to home, rather than flying all the way out to Vegas?

Cole Miller: Yeah, I just get sick and tired of going to Vegas, to be honest with you — the time change and stuff like that. It’s nice to be fighting in Nashville. It’s actually a lot closer to his home — I think it’s like two hours from his spot in Kentucky — so he’ll probably have more support than I will. But it is nice to be fighting in the south and in a really beautiful city like Nashville.

Adam Wagner ( You’re a TUF 5 alum. Do you watch the show?

Cole Miller: No, I used to try and watch the show. I think the only season I watched completely was Season one. I started to watch Season two, and then I just couldn’t watch it. And then same with three and then same with four. And then after I was on it, I didn’t really watch it after that.

Adam Wagner ( Well, Junie was definitely the most controversial TUF alum during Season 8 and possibly ever. Have you met Junie personally?

Cole Miller: No. I really don’t want to until the weigh-in either.

Adam Wagner ( For all the controversy and trash talking, Junie wasn’t exactly the most dominant fighter on the show. He seemed to have decent standup — what I would call a "pretty boxer" more than anything else. He kind of danced around a bit. His ground skills seemed okay. What problems do you think a fighter like Junie might bring to the table?

Cole Miller: His inexperience I think actually kinda helps him. At this stage a lot of these guys that are coming off The Ultimate Fighter with less than five fights, or making their debuts in the UFC, they don’t know the hardship and the struggle that it takes to get to the big show. So it’s really not that big of a deal for these guys with minimal fights to be fighting in the UFC, since it came to them so early in their career. It’s like you get in there earlier and you develop a comfort like that.

I fought a lot of fights in front of less than 500 people inside gym recreation centers and such. I probably did that 20 or 25 times before I finally fought in the UFC. So it’s just a big change for these people that have slowly worked their way up from bigger show to bigger show to bigger show, and then these guys that come in who aren’t so experienced, they get to just jump right into the UFC, and that’s like home for them.

So I think his inexperience … I think that maybe he’s not such a smart fighter. Maybe he’s just too dumb to know that I’m a way better fighter than him. And that can sometimes pose a problem with these guys, they don’t respect you. They go in there and they do wild, wild stuff. They look for big punches and maybe some elbows that might pose a threat to maybe cuttin’ me.

But other than those types of things, I don’t really see him being that big of a problem.

Adam Wagner ( The fact that he might not have come up through the trenches, so to speak, does that make you even more excited to fight him, to kind of put him in his place?

Cole Miller: Oh, yeah, absolutely. This is where the experience factor does favor me. I’ve had tough fights. I’ve had really hard fights, and he hasn’t. So I think once I get in his face and I start to put it on him, then he’ll probably break.

Adam Wagner ( Well he definitely exhibited some mental weakness on the show, probably more so than most of the people that we’ve seen on TUF. He was talking about quitting and everything else. Do you think that he’s still mentally weak and is that something that you plan to exploit if the fight goes into the later rounds?

Cole Miller: Yeah for sure. I’m not so sure if he’s still mentally weak, but if he is, that’ll definitely favor me. I think the longer the fight goes on, it’s going to get worse and worse for him. If I was him, I’d be trying to land a real big punch in the first 30 seconds. And if he takes me down, try and throw as many elbows as he can — maybe he can get a lucky cut or something.

But once the fight sort of settles in and starts to go at its pace, I think that I’m going to pose a lot of problems for him.

Adam Wagner ( You now hold wins over some decent names like Leonard Garcia and Jorge Gurgel. Where do you think a win over Junie — not that he’s as big of a name as those guys — but where do you think a win puts you in the lightweight division?

Cole Miller: I don’t really think amongst the fighters and the other lightweight competitors in the division, I don’t really think that they’ll gain any more respect for me (with a win over Junie).

But he’s a very talked-about fighter. I think that more people are going to be paying attention to this fight than any of my other past fights. So if I beat him, then I’ll get a bigger fan base and more exposure and the ability to fight more on main cards, ‘cause this is my first time fighting on the main card. That’s really where I wanna be so more people can see my fights.

Like you said, I got a win over Leonard Garcia, and nobody’s seen that fight. I just really want more people to see my work. I spend a lot of time and hard work training for fights, so I really just want more people to see it.

Adam Wagner ( American Top Team has got to be one of the biggest camps in MMA. I was just looking at it again today online, and the list of fighters that you guys have is just crazy. There are just tons of fighters there. Can you talk about your experience there, especially having relocated from another camp — Team Praxis, in Macon, Ga., is that correct?

Cole Miller: Yeah.

Adam Wagner ( So how was that experience coming from one camp to another, especially one as talented as ATT.

Cole Miller: Yeah, I went pretty much from an MMA club to an MMA team, you know? It was really, really cool. When I first went in there, I was pretty star-struck. I was seeing guys who had fought in PRIDE and the UFC and K-1 Hero’s and stuff like that — all these guys who had been or are where I wanted to be. So it was really cool to be in the room with those guys and be able to train with him, and to have the coaching staff that we have.

ATT is the best thing that ever happened to me. My game stepped up immensely since joining the team. It made me the fighter I am today.

Adam Wagner ( There was an article that you linked to on your blog,, which talked about a meditative approach to fighting. I believe it was an article that originally appeared on

Cole Miller: Yeah.

Adam Wagner ( Do you actively practice meditation? Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?

Cole Miller: No, I don’t really consider myself to be super spiritual, but I do spend a lot of time going over the fight in my head, mentally over and over again. I lose a lot of sleep over it at night, just because I constantly see myself in different positions and in different scenarios in the fight.

I can’t stop thinking about it — different ways that I’m winning, seeing myself in both good and bad positions in the fight. So that way when something happens in the fight, it’s not really a surprise, because I’ve already gone over every scenario in my mind.

Adam Wagner ( From your experience talking to teammates, is that a typical way that a fighter goes about his business, or do you think that you’re a relatively cerebral fighter?

Cole Miller: I think that makes me pretty cerebral. I don’t really know a lot of other people that do it to the extent that I do it. It’s a part of my training, really. That’s the way I think about it.

Adam Wagner ( You’re 6’1" and I read that you once competed as a featherweight, is that so?

Cole Miller: Yeah, I’ve fought at ’35 before, I’ve fought at ’45, and ’55.

Adam Wagner ( Obviously the UFC only goes down to the ’55 division, but is that the weight class that you’re comfortable fighting at, or do you see your —

Cole Miller: Right now I’m pretty comfortable fighting at ’55. I mean, I’m fighting in the UFC at ’55, and I’m 3-1 right now, so I feel pretty comfortable right now. But if at any point I don’t feel comfortable and I start losing fights, then dropping down is certainly an option.

I focused a lot on gaining weight for this fight, because I’ve always been a smaller fighter in the division, and a weaker fighter. So I spent a lot of time working on my strength for this fight and working on putting on weight, because I definitely feel the effects of it, and I have in my past fights.

So I wouldn’t mind just staying here at ’55. But if things didn’t go my way, then dropping down to ’45 or even as far as ’35 is certainly an option.

Adam Wagner ( I wanted to ask you the story behind your nickname, "Magrinho."

Cole Miller: It means "skinny" in Portuguese. I came to ATT, and (Ricardo) Liborio just called me "Magrinho." And that’s the way it goes.

Adam Wagner ( Well I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us, Cole. I also wanted to give you an opportunity to plug any sponsors or if you have any parting words for your fans on what they can expect to see at Fight Night 18?

Cole Miller: Thanks to the fans I have worldwide, and my family and friends for all the continuous support. Check out my website,

Thanks to the TapouT guys for all their support, especially with all the stuff that’s going on with Mask and his passing. I’m there for them, and they’ve shown me a lot of support for all my fights, so I do my best to support them. They’ve done a lot for the sport of mixed martial arts. I’ve been thinking about them a lot.

To read more about Charles "Mask" Lewis’ legacy go here.

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