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Jim Miller reacts after his knockout victory over Jesse Butler in a lightweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 03, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Athletes

Jim Miller Will Not Be Denied

Jim Miller's Record-Breaking Career Is Going Strong As Ever Heading Into UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs Walker 2

In an alternate universe, Jim Miller might be a trash talking, costume wearing, “Careless Whisper” singing character / prizefighter. In the real one, he’s just Jim Miller, and that’s more than enough.

Of course, he has been told by fans, media and others around him that bringing a persona into fight week might be a good idea.

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“I've definitely been pressured,” he chuckles. “It was probably 2010. When I trained at AMA, a lot of media people would come in and be like, ‘Hey, why don't you have this personality that you have in the gym with your training partners and trainers? Why don't you do that and bust chops with your opponents?’ And that's just not how I operate. I am that ballbuster kind of guy, and that's how I show affection to those close to me. So, I've definitely been like, man, there could be a lot more money in the bank account if I did something like that. But I have to be true to myself. I have to be who I am and that's not me.”

Jim Miller reacts after his knockout victory over Jesse Butler in a lightweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 03, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Jim Miller reacts after his knockout victory over Jesse Butler in a lightweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 03, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

As 2010 closed, New Jersey’s Miller was 8-1 in the UFC and fresh from a first-round submission of future lightweight champion Charles Oliveira. He opened up 2011 with a finish of Kamal Shalorus, but losses in two of his next three to Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz slowed his quest for a world title. What it didn’t do was halt his ability to make history on his own terms. 

No, Miller has never worn championship gold, but he’s won more UFC fights than anyone and stepped into that iconic UFC Octagon more than anyone else, as well. His run in the promotion also includes 14 post-fight performance bonuses (tied for fifth in UFC history), he’s fought a Who’s Who of the lightweight division, and he is on track to become the only fighter to compete on the UFC 100, UFC 200, and April’s UFC 300 cards. In fact, that last topic has garnered nearly more questions for the 40-year-old than his Saturday bout against Gabriel Benitez.

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“It's about 50-50 at this point,” he siad. “I'm not even really entertaining the questions about who I want to fight at 300 and this and that. And when I'll share one of these things of somebody saying, ‘Jim Miller's going to be fighting on 300,’ I get a lot of these comments like, ‘Oh, well, what if he gets hurt?’ And there's a part of me that wants to be like, ‘I've been doing this for a long time.’ And it's funny, because there are no fighters saying, ‘What if he gets hurt?’” Listen, stuff like that'll happen, but I am training for this fight. I wanted to fight again before 300, I got my opportunity, I love the matchup with Gabriel, and I'm chomping at the bit to get in there with him and put on a show.”

That means, Miller, as always, is a professional and, as such, he is giving Benitez his undivided attention, both in the gym and on fight night at the APEX in Las Vegas this weekend. That respect for his fellow fighters is another reason why he’s never gotten into trash talk battles with his foes.

Jim Miller: History Is Made | UFC 30th Anniversary
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Jim Miller: History Is Made | UFC 30th Anniversary
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“I have a deep appreciation for my peers,” he said. “And I need somebody that can push me back. I've had a decent amount of fights where I've gone out and I have been aggressive and violent and beat on somebody for 15 minutes. And we don't get a Fight of the Night because they didn't fight back enough. And that's kind of why I've been in quite a few Fight of the Nights where I've lost, because I'm not going to stop. I will not stop. If there's time on the clock, I'm going to try to finish my opponent, even if I'm getting my butt kicked in the process. I'm not going to take the easy way out, just try to minimize damage and do this and that. I, I'm going to still continue to be aggressive and try to win in the way that I want to win, which is violently. So that level of respect and appreciation I have for the guys that I fight makes it really hard for me to do something like some of those guys do and say the things that they say.” 

It’s a reminder that there doesn’t need to be any pre-fight nastiness to produce a good fight. I’ll never forget best friends Simon Brown and Maurice Blocker fighting like bitter enemies in their welterweight title fight in 1991, and Miller has had a couple wars like that with fellow veteran good guy Joe Lauzon. 

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That’s inside the Octagon. Outside of it, Miller is just as interesting if someone wants to get past the “How’s training going?” questions. In a quick hit, instant gratification culture, that’s not a given, but the Sparta native won’t budge when it comes to the way he carries himself. And it’s not just stubbornness, but the reality that whether now or a few years down the line, he’s got four very important pairs of eyes on him.

“It's very important,” said Miller. “It's hard to ask your kids to carry themselves and act a certain way if you're not going to, especially because they might not understand the nuance of, oh, well, it's just a show; that's just selling the fight. ‘He's saying some messed up things and saying things that he would get mad at us for saying, but it's just part of the show.’ And that might work for a 14, 15-year-old kid, but my youngest is eight; he's not going to get it. So it is important because they're always watching. They're always watching.”

The Miller kids aren’t the only ones. Despite his fanbase not being at Conor McGregor levels, “A-10” has a large and loyal following that have been in his corner for years, determined to make sure that he gets his fight at UFC 300. And he appreciates that support, even though he wants them to know that fighting on Saturday and then making the walk three months later isn’t an issue, at least not for the man former UFC matchmaker Joe Silva dubbed Jim “F**cking” Miller.

“They obviously care, and they think it's cool, but they must not have been paying attention over the last 15 years because ‘f**k it’ are my two favorite words,” Miller laughs. “So if they understand who I am and who I've always been, then absolutely I'm going to fight in January and then again three months later in April.”

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I ask JFM how difficult it is to live this way and be the adult in the room in a world that doesn’t always celebrate such a stand. As far as he’s concerned, it goes back to fathers and kids again. This time, Jim and his dad, Mike.

Jim Miller Octagon Interview | UFC Fight Night: Kara-France vs Albazi
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Unlock MORE of your inner combat sports fan with UFC Fight Pass! Fighting is what we live for. And no one brings you MORE live fights, new shows, and events across multiple combat sports from around the world. With a never-ending supply of fighting in every discipline, there’s always something new to watch. Leave it to the world’s authority in MMA to bring you the Ultimate 24/7 platform for MORE combat sports, UFC Fight Pass!

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Jim Miller Octagon Interview | UFC Fight Night: Kara-France vs Albazi
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“I saw that guy bleed every day, unfortunately saw him almost die on a couple of occasions, but I have never seen my father not be polite,” said Jim. “My father would wear his work clothes ripped, torn, stained, he’d smell like chainsaw gas and sap from the lumber. And I've never seen him not hold the door open for somebody. He’d say, ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ because as a kid I was always watching. In the town of Sparta where we grew up, it was kind of a money town. So my dad would drop us off to school and we're easily in the worst, busted up f**king vehicle that you've seen. And all those people get out, and you go into the school, and you interact with all these people that drive fancy cars and this and that. And my father was always the most polite, had the most manners, was the most respectful. And I saw it every day. So yeah, I'm gearing up to fight somebody, there's butterflies, there's nerves, there's this, there's that, we're going to get into a fist fight and bleed and all this stuff. But I can still be polite. I can still have manners. I can still be courteous because of the example that I saw as a kid.”

I tell Miller I wish there were a hundred of him in the fight business.

A pause, then we laugh. Okay, 300.

UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs Walker 2 took placelive from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on January 13, 2024. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!