Though it’s far from November, Cole Miller is thankful for many things in his fighting life.
The UFC veteran is coming off a much-needed win over Bart Palaszewski at TUF 17 finale in April.
Miller was a guest on Wednesday’s BJPENN.com radio show where he talked about the victory, his move to featherweight, and what being a long-standing member of American Top Team has meant to him.
Miller’s win over Palaszewski snapped his two-fight losing streak. Palaszewski was soon shown his walking papers from the organization and Miller knows that if things would have turned out different it could have easily been him looking for employment.
“It feels good to keep my head above water,” he said. “That’s not the goal to just do barely enough to get by. I want to keep this going and get some momentum. I should have got cut if I lost. That’s what you get for failure to perform unless it is some sort of Fight of the Year-type of situation. I accepted the fact that this was it if I lost the fight and then it was back to the drawing board. I accepted that and the type of changes in my life if that were to happen if I had lost that fight. Once I’m able to accept that, then I was able to fight the type of fight that you are used to seeing me fight, just letting it all go, going for the kill, and taking risks but make something really good happen.”
The Palaszewski fight was his third at featherweight. He said he made the switch because he felt he was too small at lightweight and it was taking its toll on his body, especially during training.
“I feel pretty good at 145,” he said. “I didn’t feel so hot in my first fight but in my last two I have felt pretty physically solid. From a defensive, more counter aspect, you can feel a difference in the size of the opponent. I think it’s about the same technical level. The feel, the size and the weight is really different.”
At 6-foot-1, Miller has a nice height advantage over most in that division.
“Being able to have that reach and length is phenomenal but you have these guys each foot walking forward and they’re just looking to get in and crash in on your hips, which is easier to do on a taller fighter,” he said. “If you can strike and you can move and you can stop takedowns all simultaneously then it’s definitely a lot better to be the taller striker in that situation.”
Miller made his featherweight debut against Steven Siler in March of 2012. Siler had defeated Miller’s brother, Micah, to make it on The Ultimate Fighter: Team Bisping vs. Team Miller. One would think revenge was on Cole’s mind but that wasn’t the case. Miller lost his fight to Siler by unanimous decision.
“I honestly didn’t want to fight that guy,” Miller said. “The way I thought about it was why do I want to fight this guy that beat my brother because if I beat him then it makes that guy look not as good and it definitely makes my brother not look as good. I didn’t want anything to do with the fight and I wasn’t motivated for the fight but I was able to. But none of that matters. What you are able to do on fight day matters and I didn’t do enough.”
While he feels at home at featherweight, Miller knows that there is plenty of work to be done.
“There are a few things that I need to tweak out to get my performance as far as the weight cutting and such,” he said. “I’m still a confidently evolving fighter as far as improving all of the time. I feel that I am one of the more technical guys but I don’t necessarily mix those styles and that’s what this is, it’s mixed martial arts. It’s not who’s the best at each one it’s who’s the best at piecing it all together.”
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt has become more offensive and is initiating the attack more.
“I heard for so long that you can’t get taken down, you can’t get taken down when I was a blue and purple belt,” he said. “Now things have come full circle to where coaches are telling me if he takes you down, great, because I’m a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and I’m obviously well-versed in the guard and I can come from all angles on the bottom. I think for so long I beat it in my head that when I was a blue belt, purple belt and even an early brown that I was still getting smoked from some these killers at American Top Team. Now I’m trying to attack and counter simultaneously.”
Miller has been able to adapt his high-level BJJ to MMA just fine while many BJJ world champs struggle inside the cage.
“I learned everything backwards. I didn’t start with jiu-jitsu I started with mixed martial arts,” he said. “We didn’t have a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu program when I started in Georgia. We would show up and we would grapple or we would spar. That was how we prepared for our mixed martial arts fights. I had to learn how to adapt right away and everything was thought of with the intention of that this guy will be able to hit you. I think the big thing with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guys and world champs is that they haven’t had as long to practice and perfect their art in that realm. These guys are coming with a ton if jiu-jitsu matches and a ton of training hours but they haven’t had that live scenario yet. That’s a lot of pressure from someone with prestigious background to have.”
Miller, a Georgia native, lives in Florida. He trained just two-and-a-half years before switching to American Top Team, which changed his life.
“If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be the fighter that I am today,” he said. “A reason I have stayed so loyal is because I agree with their outlook on fighting and martial arts. I can’t be the easiest guy to coach. I’m not like a sick athlete. I don’t have a fast 40 and probably a pretty weak vertical and as far as being in the weight room, I’m probably one of the least explosive guys. It can’t be super easy to be my coach. I have days in my sparring where I’m an A-level guy where I’m beating everybody and that’s my day to be the man. But then when I’m coming back for that second training session of the day I’m getting beaten down. They stick by me and molded me into the fighter I am today.”
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