~ Kobe Bryant
To the casual viewer there may not be a lot of similarities between the worlds of mixed martial arts and professional basketball, but Miami Heat forward Mike Miller would argue that point with anyone.
Some would say MMA is an individual sport whereas basketball is a team sport driven by the sum of the parts being greater than any one piece.
For Mike Miller as he chases an NBA title alongside his teammates in Miami, he can draw a lot of comparisons to what he’s seen as a gym owner in the world of MMA as well.
A long time MMA fan, Miller is a part owner in the Power MMA & Fitness gym that houses former Ultimate Fighter winner Ryan Bader, Aaron Simpson, C.B. Dollaway and others, and he’s looked at their trials and tribulations of building a team as a parallel to the work that LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and others have done to help start a dynasty in South Beach, Fla.
During their first season as a fully assembled team, the Miami Heat made it all the way to the NBA Finals only to come up short when they met the Dallas Mavericks in the championship series.
What it boiled down to during the series was that Dallas was a better team during that stretch and ultimately they came out on top.
Not much different than the growing pains Ryan Bader, Aaron Simpson and others had when they first opened their gym and tried to find the right pieces of the puzzle to make a winning formula.
Now with the Heat in year two as a collective unit, Miller sees the strides they are hitting as a team as they currently sit up 2-0 on the New York Knicks in a best of seven series to kick off the NBA Playoffs, and it’s no different than watching his other teammates in Arizona grow as well.
“The more and more you play together the more minutes you get as a team, the more comfortable you get. The more comfortable you get, the more confidence you have. Everyone has a lot of confidence in each other, we like the place we’re at right now, we have a lot of work to do and a lot of good teams in front of us, but we like the position we’re in for sure,” Miller told MMAWeekly Radio on Tuesday.
When success happens though expectations are also raised.
From the first day LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Mike Miller and others committed to the Miami Heat, the line was drawn – it was NBA championship or bust.
Miller seems the similarities again when talking about his friends working in Arizona as they try to become one of the top gyms in all of MMA. With great success comes great expectation.
“For a person like me who was on teams that didn’t have the success or didn’t have the notoriety, this is the kind of stuff you’ve always wanted when you get to the league and are blessed enough to be here. You want to be a part of a team that wins and whenever you have expectations that means you’re on a good team, which is the same for fighters, same for us,” said Miller. “When there’s expectations that means you have the talent. Now let’s go out there and make the most of it.
“I’m just excited for them, excited to be a part of it, excited to see these guys every fight getting better. Every year, every workout session, they continue to get better and that’s what it’s all about.”
While Miller pursues his own dreams of becoming a NBA champion, he’s also watching his other teammates get ready for some of their own challenges ahead. C.B. Dollaway is getting ready for his showdown with Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller at UFC 146, Aaron Simpson will be dropping to welterweight to meet Jon Fitch at UFC on Fuel 4 in July, and as just announced on Monday Ryan Bader will face former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida at UFC on Fox 4.
If all goes well and expectations plus talent equal victory by the time Bader is taking on Machida in August, Miller is hopeful there’s a lot of winning that will have already happened starting with Dollaway’s fight in May, followed up by an NBA title for the Miami Heat all the way to a successful welterweight debut for Simpson in July.
Then maybe Miller will bring a friend with him when he heads to Los Angeles to help Ryan Bader in his final days of preparation for the biggest fight of his young career.
“That’s all we’re playing for down here. If we’re lucky enough and blessed enough to win this year, I’m definitely bringing it down to L.A,” Miller said about bringing the NBA title trophy with him to UFC on Fox 4.
“I’ll be right there with Bader, win, lose or draw cause that’s how our team does it, but it will be a great story if we win and then Bader goes out there and wins.”