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Frankie Edgar, Jim Miller return to Boardwalk Hall together fond of pre-UFC fight against each other

The last time Frankie Edgar fought inside Boardwalk Hall was in November of 2006, back when he was just another local kid hoping to make it to the big time.

His opponent that night in Atlantic City for the main event of Reality Fighting 14 was very much the same, a lightweight by the name of Jim Miller, who’d come up the same way Edgar had, first in New Jersey’s fierce wrestling scene and then on the local MMA circuit. By the time the night was over, Edgar (22-6-1 MMA, 16-6-1 UFC) would punch his ticket to the UFC, while Miller (28-11 MMA, 17-10 UFC) would toil for another couple years in smaller shows before following him there.

On Saturday night, they’ll return to the scene of that meeting when they both compete at UFC Fight Night 128, even if this time they’ll be fighting other people.

For Miller, who fights Dan Hooker on the undercard, it was a rough road just to get to that fight with Edgar, on whom he’d had his sights set for some time.

“Frankie and I, we were supposed to wrestle in college but didn’t,” Miller told MMAjunkie. “I ended up missing weight by (0.2 pounds), the only time I’ve ever missed weight. Then to see him coming up fighting as I was fighting, it was like, man, we’re going to get our opportunity. After a few fights, we did.”

Both men were unbeaten in five fights by the time they were matched up together. And for both of them, the main arena of Boardwalk Hall held a special appeal from their days as high school wrestlers in the Garden State.

Edgar, who meets Cub Swanson in Saturday night’s co-main event, had been coming to Boardwalk Hall for years by then, first to watch and then to participate in the state high school wrestling championships. He’d also seen some great fighters there, he said, like former boxing champ Arturo Gatti.

“I’ve been wanting to compete in the main arena at Boardwalk Hall since I was a kid,” Edgar said.

But while he came into the fight that November with a full head of steam and a lot of local support, Miller was just feeling lucky to be there at all. The gym he trained at closed shortly before the fight. He had few training partners to work with, and that number only got smaller when he tagged his brother, Dan, with a body shot, forgetting that he already had a cracked rib, and then that was the end of that.

When the promoters asked him to sell tickets, Miller realized he had little in the way of a team or a fan base to sell them to.

“I think I sold like 12 tickets,” Miller said. “My family, my parents, my grandparents. It was 12 (people) for me and about 1,500 for him.”

Still, once the punches started flying, the imbalance in the two support systems didn’t make much of a difference. Miller was there to give as good as he got, as Edgar soon discovered.

“It was a very competitive fight,” Edgar said. “What I remember is that I got a piece of my cauliflower (ear) kicked off my head, actually. He head-kicked me; I blocked it. I don’t know if it was a piece of toenail or it just pinched off my head. It went flying, and it looked like I’d lost a tooth, but it was a piece of my ear.”

In the crowd, Miller’s support base was a tad overwhelmed by Edgar’s. As Edgar rolled toward a unanimous-decision win, things got heated between spectators.

“There were all sorts of chants and stuff like that,” Miller said. “My grandmother started yelling at some of the kids. ‘Shut up, old lady,’ and that kind of thing. They never came back to a fight after that.”

With the win, Edgar got the call from the UFC soon after, making his debut with a win over Tyson Griffin a little less than three months later. He’d go on to become a friend and occasional training partner of Miller’s, even if it was a win over him that propelled Edgar into the big leagues – and kept Miller out for the time being.

“I had to fight on the lower levels a little bit longer,” Miller said. “We’ve both been here since, and it’s pretty cool. It’s pretty amazing to share that with somebody.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 128, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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