An Exclusive Interview With UFC Middleweight Dan Miller
If Miller Light was everything you wanted in a beer (and less), then Dan Miller might be everything you want in an MMA fighter (with less hype). Dan’s a down-to-earth guy, and just like his lightweight brother Jim, Dan is willing to fight on a moment’s notice.
When Dan Miller was trying to get his UFC shot, he told matchmaker Joe Silva he would be ready to go at any time—it didn’t matter if he had a week or two days notice—he would fight for him. He’s apparently a man of his word, living up to the reputation ever since—whenever Joe Silva gives him the call, he’ll say yes.
Just like Miller Light, Dan Miller is a good call.
And when Dan got the most important call of his MMA career to take on Yushin Okami at UFC 98: “Evans vs. Machida” on May 23, he didn’t hesitate to take the fight. That’s because it was an opportunity that would have sling-shotted him to the front of the suddenly crowded 185-pound title challenger pack.
Unfortunately, Okami recently had to pull out because of an injury sustained while training. But true to form, Dan didn’t sweat it, assuring Silva that he would fight anybody who the UFC could get to step in on short notice.
Enter Chael Sonnen.
I was fortunate enough to grab a few moments with Miller between training sessions for his upcoming fight at UFC 98. He shared his thoughts on his UFC 98 opponent, Chael Sonnen, Thales Leites’ UFC 97 gameplan and mixed emotions over the Anderson Silva-Forrest Griffin mega fight.
Take a look:
Brian Oswald: You began your mixed martial arts career in 2005, training at Planet Jiu Jitsu with your brother Jim Miller (also a UFC fighter). Can you tell us about that time in your life and the experience of starting your MMA career alongside your brother?
Dan Miller: At the time we didn’t have much going on. We were working for our father; eating a lot and getting fat. We started watching the UFC a lot and thought it might be fun to fight. We had been wrestling our whole lives so we both decided to go for it.
We found Planet Jiu Jitsu and started picking up the discipline pretty quick. Both of us are pretty open-minded for wrestlers. We don’t mind fighting off our backs. It was good to start with Jimmy because we really helped push each other. Neither of us let the other one get down. If I wasn’t feeling it and didn’t want to go he would push me and I would do the same for him.
Brian Oswald:You entered the sport with a background in wrestling. Can you tell us about your background in wrestling?
Dan Miller: My wrestling experience is not really as pedigreed as someone like Brock Lesnar. I wrestled in high school during wrestling season. I wrestled in a few tournaments. I did well…I just didn’t push my wrestling to its full extent. Jimmy was actually a more decorated wrestler and went on to wrestle at the collegiate level at Virginia Tech. Our wresting was the foundation though, and got us to where we are at these days.
Brian Oswald: Six out of your 11 wins in MMA have come by way of submission. So what are you better at: wrestling or jiu jitsu?
Dan Miller: Jiu jitsu is definitely starting to be the main aspect of my game. I still like to be on top though and in someone’s guard, but I don’t mind fighting off my back. I’m not afraid to be there and I know what to do when I’m there. I will stay on the bottom and work for that submission every time.
Brian Oswald: Earlier in your career, you fought current UFC fighter Mike Massenizo in a number one contender match at Reality Fighting 12. The two of you fought to a close decision, with your submission attempts earning the victory on one judge’s card, and Massenzio’s takedowns earning the victory on two cards. What are your thoughts on the judge’s decision and do you maintain any sort of relationship with Mike?
Dan Miller: Mike and I get along really well. My first fight in the UFC and his first fight in the UFC were on the same card and we actually sat next to each other on the plane. He is a good kid; I’d actually like to train with him.
I think Mike won that fight. He controlled the first two rounds and deserved the win. Our paths have not crossed in awhile but whether I fight him again inside the cage or ever train with him, I look forward to seeing Mike around the MMA landscape.
Brian Oswald: You made your IFL debut against the Tokyo Sabres’ Dave Phillips when you fought for Renzo Gracie’s New York Pitbulls in the 2007 IFL Semifinals. You ended up winning by securing Phillips’ neck in a standing guillotine choke. Bas Rutten called the choke, which rendered Phillips unconscious, “the tightest guillotine he’d ever seen.” Can you tell us about that fight and the submission?
Dan Miller: He actually arm barred me and I was able to come up a little bit and get my arm free. Then he rolled over and gave me his neck. It was almost like a regular guillotine but his head was still in my chest but I was able to push him up against the ropes.
I didn’t know it was actually that tight — I had no idea when I was choking him. I knew it was on because I could feel it on my wrist and see it on this throat. But I actually had to go back and watch it again to see what everyone was talking about.
Brian Oswald: Your most recent UFC submission win (guillotine choke) came against Jake Rosholt at UFC Fight Night: Lauzon vs. Stephens. Rosholt has to be among the best wrestlers you have ever faced in your career. Can you tell us about that fight and do you think you were brought in to against Rosholt to see if he was as good as everyone thought he was?
Dan Miller: I actually took that fight on short notice. Rosholt was originally scheduled to fight Alessio Sakara, who got hurt a month out. Joe called me up and asked if I wanted the fight and of course I said yes. You are right — he is by far the best wrestler I have ever faced. Not many guys in MMA are that caliber of wrestler. He is fantastic. Being able to submit a guy like Rosholt was a big deal for me.
Brian Oswald: You were originally scheduled to fight again against Yushin Okami, but Okami sustained an injury and was replaced by Team Quest fighter Chael Sonnen. What are your thoughts on this last hour switch and do you think Sonnen will be an easier or tougher opponent for you?
Dan Miller: I am not worried about who is tougher so much as I was more looking forward to fighting Yushin Okami because of how good he is and how high he is ranked in the division. It would have been huge for my career to get a win over Okami, but Sonnen is one of the toughest 185 pounders out there. He has great wrestling and his hands are underrated. It will be a tough fight for me and I will go in there and show that I can beat a guy of his caliber. I am looking forward to the test.
Brian Oswald: Like you alluded to, beating Okami would have been a big boost to your climb up the middleweight ladder. If you beat Sonnen, where do you think that’s you in the competitive middleweight landscape … alongside Demian Maia?
Dan Miller: Being able to finish Sonnen would obviously be a huge boost for my career. Maia has some of the best jiu jitsu in MMA so if people want to mention his name and my name in the same sentence I won’t stop them from doing that.
Brian Oswald: Training partners Matt Serra and Frankie Edgar will be appearing on the UFC 98 main card. Tell us about having those guys on the same card as you, and do all of you plan to be in each others corners for the respective fights?
Dan Miller: Matt and I aren’t actually training partners. I think [some other MMA Web site] mistook me on that. Matt and I both train under Renzo so we are on the same team. The distinction does not really matter though. I think a lot of people have made that assumption for awhile.
That being said, it is exciting to have both these guys on the same card. It’s going to be a great night for us. I do train with Frankie. We train MMA together once or twice week. He won’t be in my corner though and I won’t be in his. That’s just how it works out though. I will certainly be rooting for both guys.
Brian Oswald: Who has the tougher test in front of them: Serra against Hughes or Edgar against Sherk?
Dan Miller: I think both Frankie and Matt have tough tests in front of them. Sherk is an animal. His only losses are to Hughes (in his prime), St. Pierre and Penn. I think Frankie is ready though and he is going to shock some people. Look out of his jiu jitsu. As far as Matt Hughes, he is still one of the best welterweights in the division. So Serra will have his hands full, but I’m confident he will pull it off.
Brian Oswald: Did you watch Anderson Silva vs. Thales Leites? And if so, what did you think about each fighter’s performance?
Dan Miller: As far as people saying Anderson Silva is not going out and putting on the exciting fights he should be putting on, Thales Leites should have went after him more. Anderson is the champion and he does not have to go out and prove himself.
He has worked hard to get where he is so why should he have to put himself at risk because his opponent would not engage more. Leites should have been more aggressive; he is trying to take the belt right. Between their two contracting styles, it ended up being a stalemate.
Brian Oswald: What do you think about the UFC having the champion of one division more up to a heavier division and fight a former champion in Forrest Griffin?
Dan Miller: As a fan, I think it’s great. I can’t wait to see that fight. But as a 185-pound fighter I think it stinks because it puts our division on hold and guys that deserve their shot have to keep taking fights to stay active. Look and how long Kenny Florian got prolonged … like nine months.
But I understand why they put the fight together. It is going to be a great fight. I am sure Anderson is happy with it. He will really get to test himself against Forrest Griffin.
In the meantime, I will keep trucking along and win the fights in front of me. If Silva wins, and leaves behind the middleweight belt, I think the winner of the Demian Maia-Nate Marquardt fight should take on the winner of the Dan Henderson-Michael Bisping fight for the vacant belt. That would be great — all four of those guys deserve a shot and are the right guys to have a chance to step in should Silva leave the division.
Brian Oswald: Back to your younger brother, Jim, he is going to be fighting on the historic UFC 100 card against a scrappy Mac Danzing. Do you have any thoughts on that fight and what makes Jim such a great competitor besides being a Miller brother?
Dan Miller: I think its going to be a great fight for both fighters — they match up well against each other. It’s going to be exciting to watch because both guys can push the pace. I can tell you one thing: it’s going to be a much different fight then Jim’s last fight. He has been working very hard to improve himself and he has come along way in a very short amount of time. Jim is going to put it on Mac … he is going to get after it.
Jim learned a lot from the fight with Gray Maynard. He knows what he did wrong and has worked to fix it. Gray is one of the better lightweights in the division. He has beaten a lot of good fighters. I’d like to see Jim stick with it and get a rematch with Gray down the road.
Brian Oswald: Okay, Dan, I think we are winding down. Time for shout outs.
Dan Miller: I would like to thank all my training partners and all my coaches who have been putting in the time. I am looking forward to my fight with Chael Sonnen and hope all the fans enjoy watching it.
Brian Oswald: Thanks, Dan. Good luck with your fight at UFC 98.
Dan Miller: Thank you very much.
This article was previously published at MMA Mania, where the author posts all of his exclusive interviews. To see the full catalogue of interviews click here.