ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Jim Miller has had some memorable victories in the UFC. Kick around long enough in the organization and win as much as Miller has and those are bound to come.
Wednesday night, though, represents a unique opportunity for him. Miller has never fought for a UFC title and maybe he never will. But a main event against Donald Cerrone in Miller’s home state of New Jersey amounts to a legacy fight. A win at UFC Fight Night at Revel this week would be something he can look back on 15 years from now, long after he hangs up his gloves, and points to as something that solidified his legacy.
Thoughts like that don’t enter Miller’s mind often. He’s too focused on the task at hand. But the Sparta, N.J., native did allow himself some time for introspection Monday.
"Beating Donald here in AC would be great, but it’s not so much just beating him," Miller said. "It’s how I beat him. If I do what I’m supposed to do, if I do what I know I can do, it’ll be a good victory to have in my career."
It’s not so much just beating him. It’s how I beat him.
Miller (24-4, 1 NC) has only ever lost to men who have been champions or fought for titles. He’s been one of the best 155-pound athletes in the UFC for half of a decade. Recently, though, his fights in Jersey haven’t gone quite as planned.
Last year, he lost a decision to Pat Healy in Newark, a bout that was later overturned into a no contest when Healy tested positive for marijuana. In 2012, Miller was choked out by Nate Diaz after tearing a muscle in his leg. That was also a main event, on FOX.
"You have these small opportunities, very few opportunities and you have to make the best of them," Miller said.
Wednesday night is one of those for him. At age 30, Miller is still in his prime. He’s ranked No. 7 in the UFC among lightweight contenders. A victory over Cerrone, ranked No. 6, pushes him closer to a title shot. Of course, that’s something he wants. It’s the goal for every fighter in the UFC. But what Miller is truly chasing this week in Atlantic City is a moment.
The last thing Miller wants to do is win by a boring decision. He doesn’t just want to beat Cerrone, he wants to crush him. He wants to, as he put it, "steamroll" Cerrone in the first round and make that 2 ½-hour drive back to Sparta with a signature victory.
"I sure don’t want it to be him slipping on one of the logos and hurting himself and me getting the win," Miller said. "That wouldn’t be good for me."
No, it would not. Miller has won 13 times in the UFC. That’s a pretty darn good career for anyone, especially by age 30. But Yancy Medeiros and Fabricio Camoes, Miller’s last two opponents, couldn’t hold a candle to fighting "Cowboy" Cerrone in the main event in Atlantic City. There’s no better time or situation for Miller to do something remarkable than right now.
"How I beat him," Miller said, "that’s going to be the real feather in the hat."