"I’m in a sport that’s very physical and requires a lot of athleticism. But I’m still here. Somehow I weather the storm and I keep winning fights.”
Cole Miller is one or two hand raises away from dramatically changing the way people see him as a fighter. One or two wins away from being thought of as serious contender in the UFC lightweight division, rather than a gatekeeper of sorts who functions as a litmus test to weed out the pretenders.
The Georgian is not pleading for the naysayers to view him in a different light; he’s trying to force it upon them. Beating fellow Ultimate Fighter 5 cast member Matt Wiman would put Miller that much closer to a Top 10 ranking and a potential showdown with his notorious arch-rival, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
“It’s been like that forever,” Miller said of being underestimated, proceeding to rattle off the unflattering scouting report many people have of him: “Too small, too weak, can’t jump high enough, can’t run fast enough. I’ve seen a lot of people on the (underground) forums telling me how I’m going to get my a-- kicked in all these fights … that’s the way it is. I don’t have a high vertical, I don’t have a good 40-yard dash time, I can’t lift heavy weights, and I’m in a sport that’s very physical and requires a lot of athleticism. But I’m still here. Somehow I weather the storm and I keep winning fights.”
Yes he does. The American Top Team product’s body of work inside of the Octagon thus far has positioned him to say “I told you so.” Back in mid-2007, Miller seemed a long shot to last even one year in the UFC; yet he’s still competing in the world’s premier MMA league three and a half years later. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt is 6-2 in the UFC, and has done it with crowd-pleasing aggression, finishing five of those opponents. Two of his UFC victims have been BJJ black belts (Andy Wang and Jorge Gurgel), another was TUF 9 winner Ross Pearson.
Despite a run of formidable foes, Miller believes Matt Wiman (12-5) presents the toughest stylistic matchup of his career.
“I think he’s going to try and come out and be a bully,” said Miller (17-4). “I think he’s going to come out and try to bring a lot of pressure – that’s how all of his fights go, no matter what style of fighter he faces. His style doesn’t really change, and I’ve got a lot of respect for him because of that. He’s going to meet you in the middle and fight you from beginning to end. But I think he’s going to count on his size and strength advantage. He’s going to come in and throw bombs at me. He’s not going to be as technically polished as I am as a striker. He’s expecting me to back up and then he’ll try to grab a leg and put me on my back, land some ground and pound and keep doing that. That’s ideally, in his mind, how he wants the fight to play out.”
As it turns out, Wiman, a Coloradan, is in an interesting position: Miller actually likes him, which hasn’t always been the case for the fiery 26-year-old, who usually competes with a chip on his shoulder and isn’t shy about firing verbal jabs at the opposition.
“When I’m fighting, I usually don’t have the nicest things to say about my opponents but I’ve got nothing bad to say about Matt. He’s cool,” Miller said of Wiman. “We’re decent friends. I mean, I don’t stay at his house or train with him but we were friendly even before The Ultimate Fighter because he did some training in South Florida. I always liked his personality and we’ve kept in touch. I’ve called him on Christmas to wish him and his wife a Merry Christmas. Obviously, I didn’t do that this Christmas.”
Cerrone definitely won’t be receiving any holiday greetings, either, as he and Miller have been jawing back and forth in the media for months. Cerrone has publicly lobbied for the fight and Miller wants it, too. The genesis of the beef, Miller said, happened two years ago when the two men were out eating dinner.
Miller says he told Cerrone, “‘Good job in your last fight. I like your style.’” He then asked Cerrone ‘Who do you want to fight next?’
According to Miller, Cerrone sternly fired off this response:
“Who do I want to fight next? I want to fight you!”
Miller took offense.
“A lot of testosterone was in the air,” Miller recalled. “We cleared the tables, stood up and had some words and then everything calmed down. But now every time we see each other we have words. It’s just one of those things. I think that our personality types clash, or he wants to fight me because of Leonard or some lame stuff like that.”
“Leonard” being Leonard Garcia, whom Miller beat by decision in 2007. Garcia, one of the sport’s most entertaining fighters, happens to be Cerrone’s best friend and longtime training partner.
“He’s a joke,” Miller said of Cerrone, a skilled kickboxer who nevertheless has won 11 bouts by submission. “All these guys that he’s tapped out, who are they? He’s done all this talk about he’s going to do this and he’s going to do that, he’s going to tap me out. Man, that’s a joke. He would be nothing to me on the ground.”
Miller also assured that, while some fighters resort to “trash talk” simply to hype their fights, his verbal venom is always sincere.
“I don’t need a gimmick like this guy “Cowboy” needs,” he said. “I don’t need some stupid hat or clown nose on my face. When I say something about a fighter it’s real.”
Miller said that his mother, in the past, has read some of his interviews and the unkind words he hurled at opponents. His mother wasn’t too fond of the tact.
“She doesn’t really give me any crap now, because if I say somebody is a (dirtbag) or a tool, it means they are a (dirtbag) or a tool. I’m not making up a bunch of crap about Matt Wiman because he’s a good guy. So now when I say somebody is a (bleeping) idiot, my mom won’t say anything to me.”