Currently tied with Cerrone and Andrei Arlovski for the most wins in UFC history with 23, Miller can separate himself from the pack with a victory but as much as he appreciates the accolades, the reputation he’s earned as a fighter who always stepped up whenever he was called upon matters more.
“Being that guy [means more],” Miller told The Fighter vs. The Writer. “The numbers are cool. They’re nothing that I hang my hat on. It’s kind of basically coming down to attrition at this point. Just hanging on. But the fact is, there are a lot of wins, there are a lot of great performances, there are a lot of great fights that created those numbers and created the opportunity to get those numbers.
“It’s not just about 40 UFC fights or 23 or 24 wins, this and that. It’s just about fighting for the reason that I fell in love with the sport cause guys wanted to fight and wanted to fight hard. That’s really what intrigued me about it. Not Twitter. That’s not what got me into MMA. I try to be the guy that influenced me to come into MMA.”
At 38, Miller has seen his fair share of ups and downs over the years including a crippling bout with Lyme disease that could have easily robbed him of his fighting career.
Even with that, Miller has stayed incredibly consistent with at least two fights per year dating all the way back to his debut in the UFC in 2008.
While he’s never claimed a title during his historic run through the UFC, Miller has outlasted every single champion who was holding a belt when he first appeared in the octagon. To put that in even greater context, Miller’s first fight in the UFC came before the promotion had featherweight, bantamweight or flyweight divisions and women didn’t start competing in the organization until four years after his debut.
“There’s definitely a lot of luck involved,” Miller said about his longevity. “I’ve probably been very close to some injuries that would have shortened my career but I’ve also tried to be smart about it and train hard but train intelligently.
“A lot of times, fighters we kind of fall victim to our own ego like it’s sparring day, I need to go hard. I need to show these guys what’s up. I need to push because everybody else is doing it.”
According to Miller, opening his own gym in 2014 was probably the moment that likely saved his career because he was finally able to train the way he needed to continue fighting for years to come.
Rather than constantly beating up his body, the New Jersey native started to take days off when needed while also ratcheting down some of the intensity in the training sessions when he just wasn’t feeling up to it on a particular day.
“It made it that I wasn’t fighting that ego or those voices that were trying to help but physically I wasn’t capable of doing it that day,” Miller explained. “It is crazy to think about.
“Cause it’s not only the 40 fights. That’s 320 weeks (over six years) of fight camp basically. There’s a lot of time spent in actual fights inside the gym to get to those 40 fights. That’s a lot of risk involved. That’s a lot of potential injuries that I’ve made it through relatively unscathed.”
At UFC 276, Miller will actually face Cerrone in a rematch that comes eight years after their initial meeting back in 2014.
On that night, Cerrone blasted Miller with a head kick that ended the fight in the second round, which came in the middle of a long win streak that eventually led to a lightweight title shot.
Lately, Miller has been enjoying a career resurgence with back-to-back knockout wins while Cerrone has openly said he has only two fights left in his career as he looks to rebound following an 0-5 run with one no contest in his past six outings.
None of that matters much to Miller, who actually took this fight up a weight class on just over a week’s notice after his original opponent Bobby Green was forced off the card. Once again, Miller is just doing what he always does — stepping up when the UFC needs him, although revenge would taste pretty sweet to him in the rematch.
“The fight years ago is eight years ago now, I feel I could have won,” Miller said. “He got the better of me. Set me up good for that head kick but we were still both young, early 30s, in our primes and I feel I’ve been able to hold onto it a little bit better given my recent fights and given his.
“So I’m looking to go in there and land. When I do, I’m feeling confident that I’m going to put him away.”