When Miller takes on Junie Browning at the UFC Fight Night on April 1 on Spike, Miller will be on national television, and he'll have a whole lot of fans rooting for him -- mostly because they want to root against Browning. Browning is well known to UFC fans because of his role as the bad boy on the last season of The Ultimate Fighter, and Miller says he expects to show that for all of Browning's bravado, he doesn't have the skills of an elite mixed martial artist.
Miller talked to me in an interview Monday about the upcoming fight with Browning, about his own experience on The Ultimate Fighter in 2007, about his thoughts on the UFC's pay scale and about his recent trip to Japan with his brother, also an MMA fighter. The full interview is below.
Michael David Smith: I've seen some of your comments about Junie Browning, and it seems that you don't think highly of him.
Cole Miller: That would be correct.
I just think technically he's not very proficient in any aspect of fighting. His ground game is very elementary. I think he's shown how sub-par his technical skills are.
Of the guys you've fought in the UFC -- counting The Ultimate Fighter you've fought Allen Berube, Joe Lauzon, Andy Wang, Leonard Garcia, Jeremy Stephens and Jorge Gurgel -- where do you think Browning ranks in that group, as far as his skills as a fighter?
Probably above Allen Berube but below everybody else.
Do you think the way he acted as the bad boy on The Ultimate Fighter is bad for MMA?
I didn't see The Ultimate Fighter so I wouldn't know. I've heard from a lot of people that he made a mockery of himself and made the sport look bad, but I personally didn't see any of his antics, nor did I care about him.
Have you watched the fights he had on the show to get ready to fight him?
Yeah, I saw a few of his fights. And like I said, some parts of his game are so low level that he'd just been going off toughness this whole time. Watching his old fights won't mean much for this fight because he's training with a good camp now (Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas) and I'm sure he's significantly improved from when he was fighting at the house.
When you look back on your own time on The Ultimate Fighter, what did the show mean for your career?
The show, for me, was what got me into the UFC. That's where I wanted to be and because it got me where I wanted to be it was a very positive experience for me. It gave me the opportunity to fight for a living, and I don't have to get a job or go to school.
What was Jens Pulver like as a coach?
Very influential. He knew how to instill a work ethic into his fighters, and that's what I needed.
You've had a layoff of about nine months since your last fight, at UFC 86, because of a knee injury. How are you feeling now?
Oh, I'm 100% and have been for four months now.
At UFC 86 you won the $60,000 submission of the night bonus for getting Jorge Gurgel in a triangle choke. Has that bonus money been important to you since you haven't been earning money fighting since then?
Yeah. I don't know what I would be doing right now if I hadn't gotten that bonus. That worked out really well for me.
What do you think of how the UFC pays younger fighters like yourself? Your base salary is fairly low, but you have the opportunity to make significant bonuses. Is that a good way of doing it, or do you think you should get a higher base salary?
Well, I like knowing I can get a bonus for busting my ass. If you have an exciting style like I think I do, and a finishing fighting style, you have a pretty good chance of winning a bonus. There are 10 fights on the card, and they have three bonuses -- fight of the night, submission of the night and knockout of the night -- and if you win your fight by finishing, you've got a 30% chance of getting that bonus. Then you take away all the fights that went the distance, and if you finish you have an even better chance of getting one of these bonuses. Now I've gotten two bonuses in my four UFC fights, submitting Jorge Gurgel and winning knockout of the night against Andy Wang.
Just from a competitive standpoint, how big a deal was it for you to submit a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt like Jorge Gurgel?
It was a really big deal for me. I told everybody that was what I was going to do -- I was going to submit him. That's what I had trained for and that was my game plan going in there, to submit him.
That surprises me a little. Looking at your style and Jorge's, I would have thought you would have had a better chance of beating him on your feet.
I do have a reach advantage over him, but I think it's harder for taller fighters to look more impressive to the judges on their feet. Like if you look at the fight between Sean Sherk and Nick Diaz, Nick's the one landing all the punches, but Sherk looks more aggressive, even when he's not landing -- and at the end, Sherk gets the decision.
It's easier for shorter guys to look more impressive and more powerful when it comes to judging, so I have to be more active. Against Jorge, early in the fight I was kind of letting him gas himself and then I could get it to the ground where I could eventually submit him.
You were just in Japan with your brother (Micah Miller) for his fight at Dream.7. What was that experience like?
It was a great experience. I like Japan. The fans are really cool over there. My brother really liked the experience, and we both really like fighting in a ring. We had a good time.
But I assume you weren't happy that the judges gave Yoshiro Maeda a unanimous decision win.
Correct. If my brother was Japanese he would have gotten the decision 3-0. Later that night, Masakazu Imanari fought a much less impressive fight (against Atsushi Yamamoto) than my brother did and somehow he won a decision. ... In Japan, they need some big stars. Maeda's a big star and it would have been bad for them if he had lost in the first round.
What's next for Micah?
The Dream featherweight tournament is going on right now, so it would be great to get him in the alternate match. Dream has exclusivity on him just for Japan, so we'd like to get him some fights.
If he gets that alternate match, maybe he can do what Joachim Hansen did last year in the Dream lightweight tournament, win the alternate match and then win the tournament final.
Yeah. Micah's better than everybody who lost in the first round and he's better than almost all the people who won in the first round.
Back to your own preparation for Junie Browning next week, what is it like training at American Top Team?
It's awesome. It's made the biggest difference in my career.
Who are the people you train with the most?
I don't have any one training partner, but there are a whole lot of guys between 145 and 170 pounds, JZ Calvan, Luigi Fiorvanti, Yves Edwards, Mike Brown, my brother, Chris Manuel. We have a lot of tough guys.
How did you first get into MMA?
I was just a fan of MMA. I saw the first UFC, I was a huge fan and I found a place in my hometown of Macon, Georgia, that trained in mixed martial arts, so I just started training.
You're 24. Where do you see your career going?
I'd like to fight four times this year. At the end of 2009 I'd like to be considered one of the top lightweight contenders.
UPDATE: Junie Browning responds to Miller's comments.