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September 20, 2014 Asylum 46

 

 
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New Jersey native Jim Miller built MMA career in South Jersey 

ATLANTIC CITY - Before he became one of the UFC's top fighters, Jim Miller briefly wrestled with the idea of joining his father's construction business. After spending a year of college at Virginia Tech, the Sparta native joined his older brother - fellow UFC standout Dan Miller - framing houses for dad Mike's "Big Time Construction" company. He was there just long enough to realize it wasn't for him. " It was minus-10 degrees and we were up on ladders," Miller said during an interview at Revel Casino-Hotel last month. "Have you ever tried hammering while you're wearing three pairs of gloves to keep your hands from freezing? It wasn't fun. " Their enjoyment came during lunch breaks. The Millers, both former wrestlers at Sparta High School, would spend the time duplicating punches, kicks and submission holds they had learned while watching mixed martial arts shows and Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. " We were terrible employees," Jim Miller said with a laugh. "We were watching a lot of UFC and (now-defunct) Pride (MMA fights) at that point and we wound up beating each other up all the time. That's when our dad suggested we try doing that for a living. " During the last nine years, the Miller brothers have both become among the top MMA fighters in their respective weight classes. Dan, 33, owns a 14-9 record as a welterweight, including a third-round submission victory over Ricardo Funch in UFC's last visit to the Boardwalk at Revel two years ago. Jim, 30, carries a 24-4 record into Wednesday's five-round bout against Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone as the main event of UFC's "Fight Night" at Revel's Ovation Hall. The card will also be televised on Fox Sports 1. He is ranked No. 7 in the UFC's lightweight rankings while Cerrone is No. 6.The fight will be Jim Miller's 18th fight for the UFC since joining the organization in 2008. He is 13-3 with one no contest in that span in a weight division that is widely considered to be the deepest in the UFC. Miller's only losses in the last seven years were to Gray Maynard, Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz, respectively. Henderson is a former UFC lightweight champ and both Maynard and Diaz fought for the title. Miller, whose only other career loss was to eventual UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar earlier in their MMA careers, has earned the reputation as one of the organization's toughest and most talented competitors. " Jim Miller is an incredibly exciting fighter to watch," UFC president Dana White said via email Friday. "He's fought some of the top guys in the sport and he's proven that he's one of the toughest guys at 155 pounds. " Miller started earning that reputation in 2005, when he and his brother left the construction business and began to train in MMA at AMA Fight Club in Whippany. Miller was already a strong wrestler - he placed in the top eight in the high school state individual tournament at Boardwalk Hall in 2002 - and needed to become a more well-rounded fighter to keep up with MMA's evolution from a glorified " Toughman " competition into a sport that requires versatility. He learned submission holds while earning a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He turned to an unlikely source to improve his stand up fight moves. " I took a cardio kickboxing class," Miller said with a laugh. "My wife (Angel), who was my girlfriend at the time, took it with me. That's were I worked on my striking."Miller made his MMA pro debut on Nov. 10, 2005 on Reality Fighting 10 at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall with a victory. He had no amateur background, since there was no organization such as Asylum Fight League in existence at the time. Atlantic City became his proving ground. He fought 11 times in South Jersey - 10 bouts in Atlantic City and one at Wildwoods Convention Center - between 2005 and 2007 and fashioned a 10-1 record. The lone setback was to Edgar, a Toms River native, via a decision on Reality Fighting 14 on Nov. 18, 2006."That was the first time my grandparents had ever been to one of my fights," Miller said. "Frankie had a lot of fans there, and they were all cheering for him. My grandparents kept telling them to be quiet, but it didn't work. They haven't been back since. " I love fighting (in Atlantic City), though. It's close enough that a lot of my teammates and friends can make it down to see me. " Miller, who lives in Lafayette in Sussex County with Angel and their two children, and his brother both signed with the UFC in 2008 and have remained there.Given the intense competition in his class, Miller could have been forgiven for considering jumping to a rival organization such as Bellator or World Series of Fighting, but has remained loyal to the UFC in hopes of someday winning its championship. Beating Cerrone would be a big step toward earning that elusive title shot. " A win would push him into title contention," White said. "But both of these guys finish fights and this should be an absolute war. This is the perfect fight for a fight town like Atlantic City."

 

Bruce Springsteen - Atlantic City

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