Having spoken with the younger half of the New Jersey chapter of The Fighting Miller Brothers on a number of occasions, each time we talk, the conversation seems to be the same: a win is followed by another challenging matchup that doesn’t hold major name value, the type of fight that is extremely dangerous for a fighter trying to ride a winning streak into contention.
Throughout it all, Miller’s mantra has remained consistent: if I keep winning my fights, they’ll have to eventually give me a shot.
Despite carrying a five-fight winning streak into his meeting with Charles Oliveira this weekend in Montreal, the patient lightweight contender knows the introduction of the ‘55s from the WEC changes the dynamic of the division.
Though we initially joked two fights ago that it might take a seven- or eight-fight winning streak for Miller to earn his shot at the lightweight title, that possibility is looking more plausible. While he sticks to his mantra, Miller is hungry for his chance to step up the ladder.
“I’m itching. I want those top guys. I want to fight the best in the division, and I’ve been saying that since I’ve been in the UFC. The reason I haven’t fought them isn’t because I haven’t been asking for them or I’ve been turning them down or anything like that; I’ve taken every fight they’ve offered. It’ just a matter of timing; whether somebody isn’t scheduled to fight or people getting hurt, it just seems to have kept snowballing to where I’m not getting these high-profile fights I’ve been asking for and wanting.”
Despite having just a pair of appearances in the UFC under his belt, this meeting with Oliveira could be just the kind of opportunity Miller has been waiting for. The exciting, young Brazilian made a splash this summer, winning two fights in a six week span, earning Submission of the Night honors on both occasions.
Unbeaten and electric, Oliveira is considered one of the top prospects in the lightweight division, drawing comparisons to Jon Jones. Defeating a fighter with that kind of hype behind him could be the victory that finally propels Miller into the upper echelon of the division.
“He’s a tough kid. He’s dangerous standing or on the mat, but I definitely have the advantage in experience and in experience fighting top competition. He’s got two good wins in the UFC, but neither guy was in the upper part of the division. I’ve been fighting some pretty tough guys lately – and pretty much my entire career – so I’m looking forward to a fast-paced fight where we meet in the center of the Octagon and going at it.”
Though he’s focused on facing Oliveira this weekend, Miller had his eye on another lightweight in a similar position as a potential future opponent.
“I was hoping they would wait to give George Sotiropoulos an opponent until after my fight,” admitted Miller of his Australian counterpart who has amassed a similar winning streak without earning a high-profile opponent either. After collecting his seventh-straight win at UFC 123, Sotiropoulos is expected to face Dennis Siver when the UFC returns to his homeland in February. “I’d really like the opportunity to fight that guy; he’s tough and we’re in similar situations where we’re both edging that contendership, but we both get bumped back now because of that WEC thing.”
Ah yes, that WEC thing.
In addition to bringing two new divisions into the mix by merging with World Extreme Cagefighting, the UFC has added additional lightweights into the already deep 155-pound division. They’ve also announced that the final WEC lightweight champion will face the UFC champion in a title unification bout before anyone else gets a chance at the gold. Though he understands the logic and sees some potentially interesting pairings as a result of the merger, the move further stalls Miller’s progress and creates a logjam of talent within the division.
“It doesn’t make sense to not promote a big fight like a title unification, so I’m all for that, but I think a lot of these guys are going to realize they’re in a different division. It’s a different group of guys in the UFC’s lightweight division than there was in the WEC; a lot bigger, a lot better at using their weight and dictating the terms of the fight. There are some guys who are going to be able to put on some good shows, but there are some guys that have been doing well in the WEC that didn’t do well in the UFC or on the Ultimate Fighter show, so we’ll see how it goes.”
On the verge of his ninth fight with the UFC, Miller finds himself in a familiar position, stating a familiar mantra: if I keep winning my fights, eventually they will have to give me a shot.
Miller has been holding up his end of the bargain over his last five outings.
Hopefully the UFC eventually does the same, even if it does take him seven or eight wins in a row to get there.