You probably wouldn’t know it by Cole Miller’s 10-6 record or his up and down performances that have never yielded him more than a two fight win streak inside the Octagon, but the Georgia born featherweight gets the game of how to play the UFC better than most competitors out there today.
Following an impressive win, fighters are often given time with a commentator (usually Joe Rogan or Jon Anik) to talk about their victory. It’s not an automatic gift like it was four or five years ago because now due to television time limits, even the most dominant fighters aren’t given a microphone after a win (Matt Brown was searching forever to get that chance even on a win streak with mostly first or second round finishes).
Miller has been able to land post fight interviews in his last two bouts and he used the time to his advantage on both occasions. When he beat Andy Ogle on his home soil in England in October 2013, Miller took the time to call out fellow featherweight Conor McGregor, which immediately earned him a chorus of boos from the European crowd. Miller stole the show on the preliminary card by dropping McGregor’s name along with a few well placed insults to make sure his name ended up in all the headlines after the card was over.
On Wednesday night in Georgia after a ‘Submission of the Night’ performance over Sam Sicilia, Miller was at it again this time calling out Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, who for years has dabbled with the idea of dropping down to featherweight to challenge the American Top Team fighter after he beat his good friend Leonard Garcia several years ago. Miller wasted little time when Jon Anik placed the microphone in front of his lips to drop Cerrone’s name while calling him ‘Clown-boy’ in the process. The speech got a few laughs and again landed Miller’s name in the headlines. He even managed to offer Cerrone help with his weight cut to make the fight happen.
"I’m going to send Mike Dolce over to you, and you can put the bill on me," Miller said. "He’s probably going to tell you the same thing I’m telling you – lay off those cheeseburgers and Twinkies, homie."
A day later and Miller’s post fight rant is still abuzz on the internet with virtually every MMA website or website that covers the sport making mention of his post fight speech and call out of Cerrone.
Later in the night on the same card, Brad Tavares – a winner of five fights in a row and seven out of eight since coming to the UFC – defeated Lorenz Larkin in the co-main event of the evening. The fight wasn’t the most exciting affair on the card, but Tavares soundly beat Larkin and left no doubt when the fight was over who was the victor. Tavares has been asking for a little more respect than he’s been given lately considering he came into the fight against Larkin as a heavy underdog not to mention he hasn’t even sniffed the top ten in the world despite his win streak.
Now part of the snubbing Tavares has received comes down to performance and quality of opponent. The Hawaiian middleweight is 5-0 in recent fights, but he’s gone to decision in all five fights and not a single one has taken home ‘Fight of the Night’ honors for an exciting show. Following his fight, Tavares wasn’t afforded time to speak to Anik because the show was in danger of running over time, but he did get his opportunity at the post fight press conference to spout off about what he wanted next.
"I know you’ve talked about wanting a step up in competition, I think that probably started tonight, but now what’s the next step up the ladder at this point?" the reporter asked, lobbing a softball in Tavares direction just begging for him to hit it out of the park.
Whoever Dana gives me. I’ve just been trying to rally for those guys in the top ten.
- Brad Tavares' lackluster post-fight response
"Whoever Dana gives me. I’ve just been trying to rally for those guys in the top ten," Tavares responded.
It’s two diametrically different responses to essentially the same scenario – who do you want next? Miller took his time to sharpen a knife and jab it directly into Donald Cerrone’s midsection while Tavares decided to go with the age-old "I’ll fight anyone the UFC puts in front of me". Now the fact is no fighter should go against their own personal feelings just to stir up an agenda for the sake of creating drama. If Tavares really didn’t have someone in mind that he wanted to fight, that’s fine.
The problem here lies in the fact that based on rankings, records and accomplishments in the UFC, Thursday’s headlines should be more about Tavares on his five fight win streak ready to storm the top ten while asking to fight a certain competitor but instead it’s Miller, who took his golden ticket and turned into headlines, Twitter mentions and a solid foundation for what comes next.
Miller gets it – when you are afforded that valuable time with a microphone in front of your face and a captive audience at home watching, use it to your advantage. Even if it’s not calling out a certain opponent, make a statement, tell everyone how you are the fighter to beat and you’re curious if anyone has the stones to step up and accept your challenge.
Now Tavares wasn’t given that time on Wednesday night but even when the post fight press conference gave him the opportunity he still didn’t say anything terribly noteworthy. Maybe that’s just who Tavares is as a fighter and that’s perfectly fine, not everybody can be Chael Sonnen.
But Tavares has called out fighters in interviews before. He asked to face Wanderlei Silva a few fights ago, but didn’t get his wish. He’s said he wants to get a top ten opponent, but at this point he’s probably the only middleweight who hasn’t called out Michael Bisping yet. On Wednesday night when he was fresh off a co-main event victory, that’s when Tavares should be calling for Silva, Bisping, or some other named opponent in the top ten. Seize the moment should be the message for Tavares or any other fighter on the UFC roster just hoping to be noticed.
At the end of the day, performance is what counts most. Matt Brown didn’t get many post fight interviews until he blasted through Mike Pyle in less than 30 seconds on national television and he was still the talk of the welterweight division for much of 2013 because he was destroying the competition with exciting fights and dramatic finishes.
If those types of fights aren’t happening, however, then microphone time is that much more important and Miller used his like a rock star feeding a hungry crowd of ravenous fans just begging for one more song. Tavares on the other hand ended up as the opening band everyone was just waiting to get off the stage to make room for the headline acts.