by Brian Lopez-Benchimol – MMAWeekly.com
It’s tough being a Miller these days. One-half of the infamous UFC Miller brothers, 185-pounder Dan, will be making his return to the cage at UFC 109 on Feb. 9 in Las Vegas.
The former IFL middleweight champion has not been able to compete since suffering a staph infection following a loss to UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen last May at UFC 98. It was his second loss overall and first in the Octagon. Sonnen snapped a three-fight win streak that Dan had been riding, seemingly nearing a title shot.
Now with a date and opponent, Miller admits that time away from the sport may be just what the doctor ordered, but it wasn’t what he had in mind.
“I have never had this long of a layoff, it sucks,” he said recently while a guest on MMAWeekly Radio.
“I just like to stay active. I like to keep going and keep training. I hate when I sit out for long periods of time. I’ve never had something this long and all the other ones were just killing me. I just like to fight. There’s no other reason why, it’s just I love doing it.”
Miller lost a bit more than time with his near nine-month stint away from the cage, he lost his position as a top contender to Anderson Silva’s coveted middleweight belt, a feat not too many are able or willing to vie for.
“It is kind of motivation,” he said in regards to the loss.
“I want to get back in there and get on the winning track again. Again, its something that it happens, I learn from and just keep fighting.”
There are not too many fights in the middleweight division that would propel the 28-year-old into immediate contention, though a win over jiu-jitsu ace Demian Maia is definitely a step in the right direction.
“It’s a big fight for me and this is what I do the sport for, for big fights, and I’m excited for this,” said Miller, who is ready for his February tussle with the former contender.
Before running into Nate Marquardt, Maia cut through the middleweight division with wins over Nate Quarry, Ed Herman, Jason MacDonald, Ryan Jensen, and Chael Sonnen, all by submission, four times earning Submission of the Night honors. His obvious jiu-jitsu prowess is something that is raved about amongst MMA circles, even sometimes feared. Miller must have absent from those conversations.
“I think you have to be confident in what you bring to the table,” said the New Jersey native.
“I’m pretty confident in my jiu-jitsu and everything that I bring into this fight. I’m not scared to go to the ground. It’s like everyone I talk to is like, ‘oh, don’t go to the ground with him.’ If it happens to go to the ground, it’s going to go to the ground. I’m not going to be afraid. I’m confident in what I have and I think that I can hang.”
It’s no surprise that he feels his ground game measures up. Miller was recently awarded his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt by trainer Jamie Cruz, a black belt under Renzo Gracie.
Using his time wisely in preparation for Feb. 9, Miller has used his East Coast contacts and grabbed hold of some of the sport’s elite, including former Shooto welterweight champion Vitor Ribeiro out of New York City, as well as some fellow New Jersey boys, namely Frankie Edgar, who was recently dubbed the next title challenger for B.J. Penn’s UFC lightweight title.
“Training with those guys, Frankie and Chris (Liguori) they come up and train with us (at team AMA), it’s just great having them in the room,” Miller told MMAWeekly.com.
“Even for me, I’m a lot bigger than them, just having Frankie and those guys in the room it’s a huge opportunity to meet someone like that who has great wrestling and great boxing. It’s a lot of fun rolling with him too, just learning from him.”
Not feeling the pressure to succeed following a loss, Miller is enjoying time winding down as the fight looms closer and closer and has made the best of what was a bad situation.
“I’m just going to go in there and make him fight my fight,” said the former high-school wrestling standout. “If it happens to go to the ground, I’m going to punch, beat him up if I’m on top. I’m going to get in there and get after him.”