To a large extent, UFC 138 represents a second bite of the apple of Che Mills, and it’s an opportunity he is not going to squander. He learnt his lessons the first time and have made adjustments moving forward.
Fans of The Ultimate Fighter may remember him from the elimination fight held at the Wolfslair where he succumbed to James Wilks, the eventual winner of the TUF 9: USA vs. UK series.
“To be honest, I didn’t actually think I would get a second chance with the UFC. I was always hoping and kept working at it, but my performance was really bad and I was so mad at myself for it,” explained Mills, adding that his problems lay in the mental aspect of fighting and not his physical tools.
“The whole TUF situation didn’t suit me. I’m not making excuses, but it’s about the mindset you need to be in come fight time, and that wasn’t there.
“I have spent 10 years listening to the same guys corner me, a similar set of routines before the fight, but for the show it was all different. I wasn’t focused mentally, I wasn’t nervous like I usually am and prefer, because it keeps me sharp. Obviously for some it wasn’t a problem, but it just didn’t suit me.”
After the elimination, Mills set about sharpening his tools, worked on his wrestling, and stitched together a solid 6-2 run that eventually led him to an offer he couldn’t refuse from the Vegas based promotion. It meant that the Gloucestershire fighter would have to withdraw from a proposed bout with Joey Villasenor at BAMMA 7, but purely because he saw it as an opening to right his previous showing for the UFC.
“I really have nothing bad to say about BAMMA. They treated me well, but the UFC made me an offer, and it was such a good offer that I really couldn’t refuse. The UFC is the place where I want to be.”
Wish granted and opponent in place, Mills had to focus on a different fighting stylist in the shape of TUF veteran Chris Cope.
“Training has been going really well. I think it’s the fittest I have ever been before a fight conditioning wise. I feel sharp and ready to go, like I am brimming over with energy.”
Considering that the British components of the UFC have had a rough ride of late in the promotion, particularly against fighters with a wrestling pedigree, Mills feels it is time for a change, and he is fully prepared for everything Cope has to offer, in any area of the game.
“Cope doesn’t look like he hits hard, but he keeps coming forward, throws a lot of strikes out there and relies on his conditioning. I don’t think this is a fight that will get slow and sloppy, but I am determined to finish the fight as best as I can, be it on the mat or standing.
“A lot of fighters complain about the judging and the skew towards wrestling, but those are the rules, you shouldn’t complain. If you don’t like it, learn to do something about it.”
While many fighters have a complex training regime, from caveman workouts to complex plyometrics, HIIT, and the like to boost their cardio output, Mills takes the approach of building his cardio for a fight by fighting; albeit with adequate protection to avoid injury. He finds this approach keeps his timing sharp, his angles varied, and his footwork drilled. In short, he eschews a lot of circuit work in favor of a show of hands.
“So much of a fight is about strategy, but not focusing on your opponent’s plans. I don’t like to watch too much about my opponent; otherwise, you worry about what they are going to do. I have an idea, but beyond that, this is about me imposing my will and what I do best, and I love to throw hands.”
The Team Trojan fighter knows that this is his best chance of making an impression in the Octagon. To follow in the footsteps of those he admires, from middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva to fellow welterweight Josh Koscheck. He knows that fate and hard work have given him another chance of victory and he fully intends to capitalize on it at UFC 138 on Saturday night.