“You're going to see a hungry Dan Miller in Boston. He's going to go for broke. He's going to get after it in this fight.”
"There is no comparison between that which is lost by not succeeding and that lost by not trying." - Sir Francis Bacon
Mixed Martial Arts is different than other major sports like basketball, baseball and football because it only keeps one statistic: win or loss. It is all or nothing. There are no individual statistics for how well a competitor performed even in the face of defeat like in other sports. No UFC fighter knows that better than middleweight Dan Miller.
At 29 years of age, Miller has experienced both the sweetness of victory and the bitter taste of defeat. "He has had a little bit of a tough road recently," said Miller's manger and coach Mike Constantino. This "tough road" has materialized in the form of three consecutive losses, which were also his first losses in the UFC. On August 28th at UFC 118, Miller will get his opportunity to get back to what he is used to do doing: winning.
Miller did start his UFC career on the flip side of the coin with three consecutive wins. The first son of Sparta, New Jersey, made his debut in the UFC against submission specialist Rob Kimmons back in September of 2008. Miller was rising from the ashes of the defunct International Fight League, where Miller was their final middleweight champion - winning it from Ryan McGivern via kneebar. It didn't take Miller long to prove he was ready for the UFC's caliber of competition by latching on a fight ending rear naked choke on Kimmons less than two minutes into the first round.
"Dan is well versed in all areas. Boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu," remarks Constantino on one of the star pupils of his AMA Fight Club in Whippany, New Jersey. "For wrestling, he's been doing it his whole life. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, he's a black belt. Striking, he's got good technique, but even more so, he gets in there and he hits hard and has a good chin." Miller proved all of these attributes true by winning his second fight in the UFC in a hard fought decision over former IFL alum Matt Horwich.
In Miller's third trip to the Octagon, he proved how deadly his submission game is by securing a guillotine choke on 3x NCAA Division I wrestling title winner Jake Rosholt in just over a minute. With 11 wins to his name and 7 by submission, Miller had proven he is not just another fighter on the UFC's burgeoning roster. But there are highs and lows to all life’s travels and Miller’s journey within the confines of the cage was starting a low.
Miller’s next three fights for the UFC would be against Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia and Michael Bisping. “You always take something away from every fight,” explained Constantino. “Whether it is a win or a loss, you are always looking to improve from it.” These three fights only appear on Miller’s record as losses, but what Miller learned from these wars and how that will be reflected in the cage is what will truly be telling.
Each of these past three fights were “wars”. All three ending in decision; still no one can claim a stoppage on Miller. “Both brothers pride themselves on the fact that they've never been finished - whether it is submission or knockout,” Constantino comments not only of Dan Miller, but of his younger brother and UFC lightweight Jim Miller. “They're very gritty and they come to fight anytime they're called upon.”
For Miller’s seventh fight in the cage, he has been called upon on less than a month’s notice to take on Alabama’s own John Salter. With a 5-1 record, Salter was scheduled to face “The New York Bad Ass” Phil Baroni at UFC 118. Baroni was forced out due to injury. Constantino got the call from the UFC and informed his fighter, “This was the first opportunity that arose and he jumped all over it. No one who is ultra-competitive like Dan is likes to lose, especially three in a row. He wanted back in there as soon as possible. He’s dying to get in there and fight.”
Going into this fight, what does Miller take away from his past experiences? Miller has felt what it is like to battle two number one contenders, Sonnen and Maia, and an Ultimate Fighter winner, Bisping, for a full 15 minutes each. Miller fought like a lion in these previous contests; standing toe-to-toe with pretty much the best the UFC’s middleweight division has to offer and they could not keep him from getting back up.
Although this fight is on short notice, Constantino says Miller is more than ready, “He's been training. He’s a professional athlete and it’s his job to always be in training - to always be getting better.” Miller has also been in the gym helping his younger brother prepare for his September 15th bout against Gleison Tibau. “The gym has 32 professional fighters and they’re always in training, helping each other out,” Constantino continues, “He’s not the type to give himself a day off anyway.”
Almost three months to the day of his last bout, Miller will be entering the Octagon again looking to start his comeback. “For this fight, we're not going with a set game plan,” Constantino lets on about their mindset leading into the fight with Salter. “We just want Dan to go in there and get into a fight and see where it goes. We’re all confident in Dan’s abilities in all components of the game, so just go in there and fight,” Constantino says and then touches on a misstep about over thinking for an opponent. Keep it simple - just go and fight.
“You're going to see a hungry Dan Miller in Boston,” Constantino more or less snarls. Miller entering this fight is a reminder of the fear one should have of the proverbial wolf climbing the mountain. Constantino adds, “He's going to go for broke. He's going to get after it in this fight.” Hopefully, Mr. Salter is just as ready to go.