We could talk about how Jim Miller owns the most wins in UFC lightweight history (19). Or how he’s tied with Donald Cerrone for the most fights in UFC history (35).
We can even chat about Miller’s seven Fight of the Night performances, his first coming back in December of 2008 against Matt Wiman and his most recent coming over a decade later, in February of 2020, vs. Scott Holtzman. Miller’s December 2012 win over Joe Lauzon was not only voted the best scrap of that night but the best of the year and one of the best of all-time, any era, any organization considered.
As for the most wins in UFC history? Miller’s third with 21, one victory ahead of *checks notes* a dude named Michael Bisping and a dude named Georges St-Pierre.
You might’ve heard of them.
We could even dive into this beautiful, slick, dripping-with-veteran-goodness armbar Miller just unleashed on poor Roosevelt Roberts at UFC on ESPN 11 at the UFC APEX facility in Las Vegas:
Experience on display! 🙌 @JimMiller_155 with the 1️⃣st round submission.
— UFC (@ufc) June 21, 2020
But these are all things you know about Jim Miller.
I want to talk about something else.
It’s early October 2014, and the flickering fire between us provides just enough light for me to catch the wet gleam in Mike Miller’s eye.
Jim’s sitting to my left, my mentor and, at the time, my Bleacher Report colleague Duane Finley is to our right, our cameraman Dan Sweeney is bouncing around the New Jersey wilderness, and Dan Miller is seated beside his dad, Mike, across from us.
We’re all buzzed up on a mixture of homemade Miller family plum brandy, Dale’s pale ale, venison sausage, and cowboy coffee, a combination which holds precisely zero regard for tomorrow.
This moment’s about today — and specifically about the sentiment that’s about to spill from Mike’s mouth from across the flames.
“You’re still gonna.”
I down the rest of my Dale’s and let that one marinate, waiting to see how Jim will respond.
He shuffles on the log, grinding his feet into the leafy cover.
“Yeah. I don’t know.”
“You are. You’re still gonna.”
“Yeah. You’re right. You’re right.”
Jim had just finished discussing his Aug. 14, 2011, bout against Benson Henderson, a unanimous decision loss up in Milwaukee that halted a seven-fight winning streak and, for the time, his championship aspirations. Jim would bounce back to choke out Melvin Guillard in January, but a submission loss to Nate Diaz in his next outing once again put the talks of gold on hold.
Three victories in his next four fights — including back-to-back submissions — catapulted Jim right back into the conversation … then Cerrone kicked him in the head under the fluorescent Atlantic City lights, stopping the ascent cold. And this time, after the up-and-down path to get there, it seemed like the window might’ve officially closed for the younger Miller brother.
Jim had just finished saying as much when Mike fired back with those three words:
“You’re still gonna.”
Zero hesitation. Zero cares for the fact Jim had thrice faltered in the ultimate situation over the past three years. Just definitive, unbridled confidence that his son would overcome, conquer, and become a champion.
These are Miller boys, and that’s what they do.
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So to understand Miller’s UFC career, you have to start with Mike and that family grit. You gotta take a swig of plum brandy and gather ’round. In many ways, Miller’s entire 35-fight UFC career played out around that campfire that inky night in the forests of northern New Jersey. We laughed and celebrated, and just when doubt and a little negative energy crept into the conversation, it was immediately laid to rest.
Since then, Miller’s taken 17 fights, going 8-9 in the process while pushing current UFC interim lightweight champ Dustin Poirier to a Fight-of-the-Night-winning majority decision in 2017 and putting fellow legends of the sport such as Takanori Gomi and Clay Guida out cold.
He’s been defeated in dramatic fashion twice, too — a knee from Dan Hooker ended his night back in April of 2018, while Charles Oliveira exacted revenge for an earlier loss to Miller by taking his neck just 75 seconds into their UFC on Fox 31 matchup.
Those fights took place in … Atlantic City and Milwaukee.
And after each loss, Jim bounced back with a first-round submission victory, proving that every time you think he can’t possibly win again, he’s still gonna.
It’s easy to take this in and say, “Yeah, but …” with Miller’s career. There’s no gold. There wasn’t even a UFC title fight.
But narrowing your lens to only the highest high prevents you from seeing the full picture.
Miller did all that up there while battling Lyme disease, while raising four children, and while making sure his family always had fresh meat off the Traeger and his friends could pair it with some homebrewed suds.
His longevity alone is something to be admired. Miller lost more than two consecutive fights just once, four straight from February of 2017 to April of 2018, and that run contained Poirier, Anthony Pettis, Francisco Trinaldo, and Hooker, the latter representing the only finish of the bunch.
Unless hops and BBQ rub are considered banned substances, Miller did it all cleanly, too.
Most impressively, though, is this: As Miller prospered, so did his family. So did those around him. Every time. He’s walked that balance between professional, obsessed athlete and professional, obsessed father and friend as expertly as any.
That’s the kinda guy the UFC needs to celebrate.
If those 21 wins aren’t good enough to launch Jim Miller into the UFC Hall of Fame, surely a little dose of context does the trick.