Jim Miller is a simple man with simple needs.
He doesn't drive a flashy car, he built most of the furniture in his home, he brews his own beer and he still mops the mats after every practice at AMA Fight Club in his native New Jersey.
That "do it yourself" mindset has kept him grounded, helping him avoid the distractions of success that other mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters have potentially fallen into before and it has also inspired him to branch out and try to learn anything and everything to expand his arsenal of attack.
Knowing this, it's no surprise that Miller has won eight of his last nine fights in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), including a strong first round submission of Melvin Guillard in his last appearance on the big stage this past January. That bout set up his huge Lightweight showdown this Saturday night (May 5, 2012) when he'll face Nate Diaz in the main event of UFC on FOX 3 in his backyard of East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The burgeoning title contender spoke with MMAmania.com about random drug testing, whether his principles have cost him career opportunities and what he brings to the table that Diaz's most recent opponents haven't in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How much are you looking forward to post-fight home-brewed beer? I believe you've said they're set to be ready about two weeks after the fight, right?
Jim Miller: Yeah, yeah. That batch that we brewed on camera will be ready about two weeks after. Probably around Memorial Day it'll be ready. I'm looking forward to it, hopefully celebrating a victory. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know how much you love talking about title shots so I'm gonna ask about 15 questions about how you can earn a title shot with this fight.
Jim Miller: Thank you. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Just kidding. I do have several questions here. Do you think that the Diaz brothers have kind of figured out something that the rest of the MMA world hasn't with their ability to throw such a sustained offense going throughout a fight?*
Jim Miller: I think it's just who they are and what they're capable of. They're both very well-conditioned guys and it does work for them and it has worked against them at times. They're both physical fights for anybody so they're pretty interesting in the fact that not many guys can replicate what they can do.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How much traveling do you do when you're training? You've got teammates like Charlie Brenneman who put in a ton of miles during their training camps. What's the typical amount of traveling that you do, bouncing around between gyms during your weeks?*
Jim Miller: I don't. I hate to travel, hate driving. Dealing with traffic in Jersey is the worst thing about having to go train and stuff. I drive about an hour to go to strength and conditioning and that's pretty much the farthest I'll go. I don't get into the city much or really get anyplace else. I just really like my home base and I get quality training in and feel good afterwards.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That definitely sounds like the Jim Miller way, keeping it simple. What did you think about Ben Henderson winning the title. Does that change how you see your own loss to him?(
Jim Miller: Not really. It was a fight, he looked great. Cardio-wise, he looked phenomenal. The biggest thing I took from that fight was the way Frankie fought. He fought like he went away from the gameplan and he didn't really fight his typical fight. So that's gonna cost you against just about anybody in the top 20 in the world and probably more guys even than that and it just kind of cements the fact that when I step into the cage, I've got to fight my fight. That's where I'm the best and nobody's gonna beat me at my game. That's what that fight cemented for me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Ben Thapa saw something during the Ben Henderson fight. He wanted to know, do you wish you would have handled the kneebar in that fight a little differently? He said your hip positioning or leg positioning seemed slightly off.
Jim Miller: I did not have anything left in my arms at that point so if I had maybe tucked it into my armpit right away, I would have maybe been able to get it but it locked straight and my arms started getting like limp noodles. He wiggled out because I basically let him go and I knew I couldn't get the sub. It was a close one but like I said, if I had done it the right way, I could have gotten it and in my mind, to work on for next time.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Have you ever had an opponent try to talk trash during a fight, try to psyche you out at all in any of your fights or sparring sessions? You don't seem like the type of guy who would get messed up in the head by that.
Jim Miller: Never in a fight has anybody really talked to me. I think that's kinda silly because I'm fighting guys who don't typically talk when they're fighting but also because of the style that I fight with, I try to not give guys an opportunity to open their mouths in the first place. I don't think it would take me out of my game or get me emotional or anything like that.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): People keep talking about how great Diaz looked against Donald Cerrone, but you've said you're a completely different fighter than Cerrone. What do you feel are some of the biggest differences that you bring to the table that Cerrone didn't against Diaz?
Jim Miller: I'm a better wrestler than Cerrone and I'm not afraid to have him go to the ground with me. I think that was the biggest mistake that Cerrone made. He might have got caught if he did go to the ground but to knock somebody down and put them on the mat and not make them pay or hit the floor. If I can pick one of those things and knock him down, I'm gonna punish him for it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know you're more of a traditional boxer style with your stand-up but after watching both Nick and Nate Diaz's last few fights, they really tend to ignore leg kicks. Do you see a potential opening there?
Jim Miller: I've been working my muay thai for quite a while now so if it's open, I'll take it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In terms of conditioning, have you ever had a five round fight before, even as an amateur?
Jim Miller: No, I've never had a five-rounder.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Have you had to do anything different in preparation for this fight to get your body ready for a potential five-rounder because Diaz is a guy who's only ever been finished once and you've never been finished. The odds are high that this is going the distance.
Jim Miller: Yeah, there's definitely potential. I trained the smartest I've ever trained with a lot of techniques, doing some specific cardio workouts for this fight, working in some TRX training and my regular lifting. I've been focusing on feeling good and being confident. Going five rounds, I've trained hard and done five rounds at a strong pace that you would expect in a fight. Really, the difference is injury. It's not that big of a difference going from three to five because when you're training for three rounds, you're definitely training five rounds every session so it's really about making that commitment and knowing you've got 10 minutes to go and not backing down.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You brought up the TRX training. How long have you been working with that and is that something you think can give you an edge against Diaz?
Jim Miller: It's great working out, helping my muscular endurance and that's something in the fight that can come into play if you go for a sub or something like that, get caught up grappling and you're stuck in that static position but still using force and torque, the fight continues and you might have to go for quite a while so it's something we worked into to help so you don't lose strength in your grip or anything like that.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your last fight was your first time being in the main event. Do you feel like that was a really good warm-up for this opportunity on a bigger stage with a bigger main event?
Jim Miller: Yes, this is a big fight against a tough opponent and my last one was a big one against a tough opponent. Every fight is always going to be the most important and what you have to focus on, you can never think you can take someone easy at this stage. It was good to fight later in the night. That's usually the biggest thing, to fight late. I've fought against a lot of tough guys and it's just another day at the office for me really.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): There was a guy on MMAmania who follows some of the things you do and he had a picture of you working some Hurricane disaster relief, cutting up some trees that had fallen on a house. Is that just the typical day in the life of Jim Miller?
Jim Miller: That was after we had that Hurricane come through here at the end of last summer. That was actually my brother's mother-in-law's house. I knew a little bit more about rigging and all that stuff than my father and brother so it worked out and it felt good to get the good deed done.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know that you're a guy that loves to do everything yourself, loves to make everything yourself. If you had an opportunity where you just got to relax and buy something, whatever it may be, is there something that you wouldn't want to do yourself?
Jim Miller: Ummmm, not really. (laughs) That's where things have their value with me, the effort that I put into them. I like to do things. I like to have those experiences. There's really not many things that I just want to have. It's mostly what I want to do or make, something along those lines.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you think that that mentality, that humble attitude sometimes plays against you because there's so many other guys that want a title shot or are demanding it, calling out people, but that's just not your style?
Jim Miller: Yeah, it probably did a little bit but the way the division and the title picture was when I was on that run, there was nothing you could do really. For me, it's just about fighting and beating guys. you can only have so many wins and beat so many top guys before you're going to get your opportunity.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now Nate Diaz, this is his second stint at lightweight. One of the reasons that he left the division was because he kept running into good wrestlers who could control him and had good submission defense and he hasn't really faced one since he came back down. Hell, that was one of the reasons he came back down, dealing with strong grapplers. Do you feel that the blueprint is still there?
Jim Miller: I hope so. (laughs). I definitely hope so. I expect him to have gotten better and try to close up those holes and learn from the mistakes that he's made just like I do. I try to do the same thing. I'm expecting him to be the best I've ever fought in every aspect and if he's not then I'm gonna capitalize on it and hopefully have a good night.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): One of my last questions here, something that's been in the news a lot recently. There's all this stuff out there about TRT and steroids, would you like to see more random drug tests and steroid tests in MMA?
Jim Miller: Yeah I would. I think it would definitely keep guys more honest and level the playing field. I know guys are gonna look for that advantage and it's like that in every sport and every occupation, people are going to look for that extra advantage. I like this sport being pure and just about the two guys. I feel that if you need to take those measures in order to compete, than maybe you should be looking into something else.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): The UFC, after their last FOX show when they had three decisions with them not being the most exciting fights, they almost instantly booked you and Nate Diaz on this card in the main event. Do you feel like that showed a lot of confidence in your ability to put on a really exciting fight?
Jim Miller: Yeah, I hope so. This is one of those fights that if you just look at what either guy is capable of, you should be excited about it and if you're not, then you probably don't know that much about MMA. (laughs) We've got 10 "of the night" bonuses between the two of us. I have four and I believe he has six (note: Diaz actually has eight bonuses). We're guys that in over 40 fights, there's only been one time that either of us has been finished. We're both aggressive and both have good cardio. It's a very fun fight. It's a very exciting fight for me to be training for an I just can't wait until Saturday and I have a feeling this is going to be a fun fight to watch.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you visualize this fight and you picture victory, what do you see?
Jim Miller: Ummm...violence. (laughs) I feel really good and I feel really sharp and comfortable with the biggest threats that he has. I feel comfortable in those areas. I'm gonna look to punish him and really keep the pace up so I'm gonna be looking for the finish and I hope I can create an opportunity and I can capitalize.
Jim would like to thank all his trainers and training partners at AMA Fight Club, Training for Warriors and his family for supporting him. He'd also like to thank his sponsors Tapout, Bass Pro Shop, TRX, Biodiagnostic, Microtech, Blair's Sauces and Snacks and everyone else that's stood behind him and supported him. You can follow him on Twitter @JimMiller_155.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Do you give Miller the edge against Diaz with his wrestling advantage? Is he the next contender for the UFC lightweight title with a victory?
*question submitted by Ben Thapa