One of Jim Miller's favorite songs is Neil Diamond's "Forever in Blue Jeans," which is a pretty appropriate anthem for the UFC's workingman contender.
It's easy to talk about the things that Miller is not. He's not particularly powerfully built and he doesn't have an intimidating visage. He has no one physical skill that stands out above the others.
And yet, Miller has put together a 10-2 record in the UFC and has humbled men who seemed bigger, faster and stronger. He's one of an elite group of 24 active fighters with 10 or more UFC victories, which says something considering he could easily be mistaken more often for a factory worker on a 9-to-5 shift than a world-class fighter.
Miller, though, is about performance, not potential, and he wrings every last bit out of his 155-pound body, as those 10 victories attest. He'll put himself on the verge of (and potentially into) a title shot with a victory Saturday over Nate Diaz in the main event of UFC on Fox 3 at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.
"Jim is one of those guys who never misses a day at the gym, but sometimes when you say that it can be misleading," Miller's coach Mike Constantino said. "But it's how hard you work when you are there that is the important thing. We could both do the same job. You and I could go in the back yard to rake leaves. We could both be there every day to do it, but at the end of the day, I may come up with one pile and you may work your [butt] off and give me five piles.
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"Everybody can show up at practice, but it's the amount of effort that you put into everything that you do. When he's in strength and conditioning, he's doing it to a Level 10. When he's on the mat grappling, it's a Level 10. Everything is 100-percent dedication and effort."
By pushing himself beyond normal limits, Miller has made himself into one of the game's most entertaining fighters to watch. He's finished six of his 10 wins – four by submission and two by knockout – and fights with the accelerator pressed at all times.
"I just try to go out and fight and do the things that I'm good at and if I know I'm satisfied and I'm excited about how a fight went, then 95 percent of the people out there are going to be excited about it," Miller said. "So, I just try to go and fight and, fortunately, I'm a little bit reckless at times and sometimes it works out for me. In fights, I just do what I'm good at, and there's a good amount of fans that enjoy my fights."
Miller is a top-level black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and his striking has, as Constantino said, "improved dramatically." If he beats Diaz, though, it may be his background as a collegiate wrestler which makes the difference.
Diaz just received a black belt from Cesar Gracie, and he's become one of the division's top strikers. But if he's vulnerable, it's to someone with good wrestling.
Miller's issue will be getting past Diaz's jab. Diaz has long arms and pops his jab repeatedly, making opponents pay the price for standing in front of him.
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Constantino and Miller have come up with a plan to attack Diaz's strength, but Miller is among the most instinctive fighters in the game.
"He has a very, very high fighter IQ, and I know that's a phrase that gets thrown around a lot," Constantino said. "He's a fighter who is so smart that he can recognize, not only if I guide him on something, but he knows within himself what he needs to improve upon and he's not afraid to do so. His fighter IQ is just off the charts."
Miller's IQ is high enough to know that he's close to landing a shot at the title. Benson Henderson and Frank Edgar will rematch for the belt later this year, likely at UFC 150 in Denver in August.
Henderson beat Miller fairly handily last year, though Miller had mononucleosis during his training camp. Still, it would be tough for the UFC to rematch Henderson and Miller that quickly, and UFC president Dana White told USA Today that Miller isn't guaranteed the next shot.
"We're in one of those situations we were in before with [Phil] Davis and [Rashad] Evans," White told USA Today. "Should Diaz win, Diaz is definitely getting the title shot. Should Miller win, Miller's probably going to be a fight or two away."
Miller, of course, wants to fight for the title, but he mostly just wants to fight. And the tougher the opponent, the better, he said.
"I love fighting and I want to fight badly," Miller said. "And I just don't want to fight anyone. I want the toughest fights I can get. That really motivates me. I consider myself one of the best and capable of beating anyone in the world when I fight my best. I'd have to face and beat all these guys when I was champion, so I have no problem fighting them now. I would love to fight for and win the title, and I think I'm getting there, but mostly, just give me the toughest fights. Nate is one and I love that, and whoever is next, I hope it's another [tough guy.]"
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