Cole Miller: This job hurts
This is number forty-three in Jack Brown’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re pleased to feature veteran UFC fighter, Cole Miller. The long-time lightweight, Miller, has fought at featherweight in his last three bouts in the UFC. He is coming off a “submission of the night” victory at last month’s TUF 17 Finale, and his 8-5 record in the UFC dates back to his debut at the TUF 5 Finale. Miller was a competitor on that fairly epic season of the show, and he has been in the UFC ever since. Miller is also a long-time participant on the UG forums, and is known to thrown the UG sign at his fights. Please enjoy the conversation below.
Jack Brown: What was your first experience with martial arts/combat sports, and how did it become more than just a hobby for you?
Cole Miller: Well the first experience was watching them on TV, in cartoons, movies, etc. We watched it all, especially boxing. I saw UFC 1 on the cable box. I didn’t get into practicing martial arts until I found a place training people locally in Macon, GA, in 2003. I had fun with it and fought five months or so later. One thing lead to another and here we are.
JB: What do you recall about your first professional MMA fight, a submission win via triangle back in 2005, and how prepared do you feel you were at the time?
CM: Honestly, I remember less about that fight than my first amateur MMA fight, which was in November of 2003. Amateur in Georgia back then meant four-minute rounds instead of five-minute rounds and that the fighter didn’t get paid. The fighter could bring their own four-ounce gloves to the bout and it was full MMA. We had fewer rules than Shooto or old Pancrase, but a lot of people try to discredit my amateur fights as not having any relevance as part of my experience. I hit my first amateur opponent with fifty unanswered punches before they finally stopped the fight. I had ten “amateur” fights by the time I fought my first pro fight, and I had already fought in three different weight classes. I was very prepared. I just remember it wasn’t a big deal to me, and it was just the next step, an ordinary part of the process if you will. I was too young to have fear or nervousness back then.
JB: Going into The Ultimate Fighter, season five, you were 11-2 as a pro. How did your training and experience in that early part of your career compare with how you’ve developed as a fighter since TUF?
CM: My early training has had a huge influence on my career. The way I trained and fought before that point always stressed finishing the opponent. Everything I did had a purpose to move toward the KO or submission. After TUF (which I learned a lot on), I was equipped with a new outlook on MMA. I thought about how I was going to approach my training at a higher level, but with that same old-school mindset of finishing everyone.
JB: TUF 5 is one of a handful of iconic seasons of the show. You and many of your fellow competitors from that season continue to be highly ranked fighters in the UFC. Though it must seem long ago now, what are the lasting relationships that you formed, the memories that you made, and the lessons that you learned while living in the house and training and fighting on the show?
CM: You’re right about that. A lot of people come up to me and have no clue that I still fight in the UFC, but they sure remember that season of TUF. Training with all those different fighters, all knowing they may have to fight the guy in the same training room with them, made every session a dogfight. I don’t think that was a bad thing. It was just the circumstances of the situation. I learned the importance of hard work from seeing how much it meant to everyone else to win the show.
JB: Since entering the UFC, with a “knockout of the night” victory over Andy Wang at the TUF 5 Finale in 2007, you are 7-3 as a lightweight and 1-2 as a featherweight. What have been your most satisfying performances with the promotion and why?
CM: I would have to say the win over Andy Wang was extremely satisfying and the most important. Without that win, none of those other fights you mentioned would have happened after. Also, going into that fight, I was over-drafted almost four hundred dollars. I had a bunch of student loans from wasting years of my life going to college. Winning that fight, and also getting the KO of the night, meant I could start fresh with a clean slate and begin the next stage of my life and fighting career.
Aside from that, beating Jorge Gurgel is my favorite win. It taught me a lot about myself. It tested me. He tore my knee, which I had to have surgery on after the fight, with leg kicks in the first round. I was cut in three different places on my face, I was behind on the judges’ scorecards, and I had taken some shots. Also, I was a purple belt at the time, and my teammates believed that I could submit him, or anyone for that matter, on the ground. And I did as well, but actually making it happen, when thirty seconds were left in the fight, tests someone’s mettle. I kept the focus on finishing my opponent each and every second of the fight, even when it looked to the outside viewer that I had no chance of ever doing so.
The Ross Pearson fight was cool, I guess. But it went how I trained, thought, and hoped it would go.
This fight against Bart was a memorable one as well, being only the fifth guy to finish a veteran of over fifty MMA fights. His last two top-ten opponents couldn’t finish him, and he is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu as well.
But I think about my losses a lot more than the wins.
JB: Your most recent fight was a “submission of the night” victory over Bart Palaszewski at the TUF 17 Finale last month. Who and when do you want to fight next? And are there any other fights or rematches that you would really like to have before your fighting career is done?
CM: I would like to fight by the end of August. And I don’t really have a preference on who I would want to fight. I just saved my job. I don’t think I’m in any sort of position to be calling people out. I also have never been a rematch guy. I think someone asking for a rematch, unless it was a split decision or had some crazy ending, is a very amateur thing to do. Look forward and learn from your mistakes.
JB: You often make an effort to give credit to your coaches and training partners at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida. What has their training and support done to help you evolve as a mixed martial artist and what has having your brother, Micah, there training with you done for you as well?
CM: Well I have a great team of coaches and training partners behind me, but I am extremely close to my coaches. I’m not an athletic guy. I don’t have a fast forty-yard dash. I don’t have a high vertical leap. I have hardly any explosive ability. For me to get to the point I’ve gotten to in my career is a testament to the hard work my coaches have put into making me a technician that can take advantage of one mistake made by another fighter to take them out. My brother is a good motivator as well. I see how determined he is, and it keeps me honest and reminds me to not take for granted the situation I have been placed in, fighting for the best MMA organization in the world.
JB: You are a beloved forum member on the UG. When did you first start visiting the site and what do you like about interacting with fans, fighters, and others on there?
CM: Ha-hah. I wouldn’t say I’m “beloved.” I used to really enjoy conversing with the fans because I used to be one. I didn’t look at myself as being above them, more as being able to shed a different perspective on some things because the UG has seen me grow from fan, to amateur, to pro, to TUF, to the UFC. However, now, when I try to talk about anything with any substance in the sport, I’m usually just reminded of how bad Efrain Escudero knocked me out, how I suck, or how there are women in the UFC that would fuck me up.
But I still love the UG, regardless, and as a forum, I think it’s the best spot on the internet to go to for fans and fighters to talk about what’s going on. It’s a real solid internet community, and I love it, even though I’m not able to get on there and talk with people as much as I used to without being stoned by the keyboard warriors. I rep it in my fights though because it’s where I started and I got nothing but love for the UG and the dozens of loyal fans I do have.
JB: What else do you enjoy outside of training and fighting, and who are the individuals who have supported you most in life?
CM: I like training, outside of training for fighting. I can’t wait until one day when I can do this for fun, like how I began. I like training for triathlons, playing video games (I have a different console preference for different game styles), watching movies, riding my Vespa, and trying to finish my Honda Civic build (Hopefully I’ll get that in Honda Tuning magazine at some point this year).
As for the people that have supported me most in life? That’s a tough question. I can’t even name them because I would be ashamed for leaving even one person out. I’ll just say my friends, family, and coaches and teammates at American Top Team and IHP. I’ll probably make a more detailed UG post for each individual when I leave this sport.
JB: Last question, Cole, and thanks for taking the time to do this. What does it mean to you to be a fighter and how much do you enjoy it?
CM: I’m not really sure what it means to me to be a fighter. That’s a pretty deep question. I will say that I wouldn’t trade in this ride I’ve been stuck on for the past ten years for anything else. I’ve seen some things and had some experiences that I will cherish as long as I can.
As for enjoying it, I don’t think I do. Let me say that I am lucky to have the job I do, but it didn’t just get thrown in my lap. I know how many people wish they could do what I do at this level I am doing it at. But fighting is not enjoyable any more. It’s stressful. These are hard times and they are not getting any easier. Now I’m not asking for anyone to feel sorry for me, and I’m certainly not complaining. This is the life I chose and have built for myself, but it is not enjoyable to be fighting for your job after two losses in a row. Now if I was six for my last seven, and not getting injured, and fighting three times minimum every year, I’d probably have a different outlook. But this job hurts. I experience a full spectrum of emotional and physical pains and successes. But I find that as I’m getting older, I just want to live in the middle. I want some sort of consistency with my life and to not always be teetering on the edge of success and failure like I was just before this fight with Bart Palaszewski. Maybe I’m just bitter because my career hasn’t gone how I would’ve liked it to, with surgeries and some of the losses I’ve had and in the ways that I’ve lost them. But sparring at ATT with savages for eight weeks isn’t enjoyable. The circuits I do at IHP are not enjoyable. I can go on and on.
I will say that this is only in regards to being a fighter. It means more to me to be a martial artist. That is real satisfaction. That is enjoyable. Learning new things and techniques, perfecting my craft, helping others get better and, in the process, seeing them being able to reach their goals and potentials, these are the things that are the most enjoyable for me.
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