As Jim Miller watched Benson “Smooth” Henderson lift the UFC lightweight championship at UFC 144, he could not help but kick himself and think “That could have been me.” On August 14, 2011, Miller had stepped inside the Octagon to face Henderson at UFC on Versus 5, knowing he was not at 100 per cent at the time.
Warming up for the fight backstage in the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the New Jersey native didn't feel right. Devoid of the energy he normally has just before a fight, Miller already felt exhausted when he made his way out to the cage.
Despite this, Miller put on a brave show and went the full 15 minutes but found himself second best throughout the three rounds as Henderson went on to score a unanimous decision win via all three judges' scorecards (30-27, 29-28, 30-26).
In the aftermath Miller did not want to undermine Henderson's performance but did reveal that he fought sick, suffering from a kidney infection and mononucleosis. As a result, he felt he could not implement the game plan he wanted and left second-best as Henderson, with the win, became the number one contender for Frankie Edgar's title.
“Smooth” would later capitalize on this win and lift the championship from Edgar at UFC 144 on February 26, 2012 at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan. Watching the fight pan out was uneasy for Miller. When asked did he regret stepping into the cage with Henderson, Miller admitted that it's still a decision that bothers him.
“Stuff happens, but basically, yeah, I kick myself. I should have known something was going wrong but I am a big boy. I still signed all the waivers, stepped inside the Octagon, still made my mistakes and he capitalized on them,” he says.
Thinking about the problems that surfaced during his camp when Miller was struggling with his energy levels, the lightweight contender said he should have addressed the problems sooner. However, rather than blame the illness, Miller paid credit to Henderson, though vowed to give a better account of himself if he gets his chance against the new lightweight champion.
“He was the better man that night. If I can earn my opportunity at him again, I'll put on a show,” he vows.
To do so, Miller will have to get through Nate Diaz first at UFC on FOX 3 which takes place on May 5 at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. And even if he beats Diaz, Miller may not get his hands on Henderson as former champion Frankie Edgar has won his tussle with UFC top brass and will get his rematch with Henderson in the near future.
And when asked about his gameplan against Diaz, Miller revealed that it's a simple one.
“Fight him. There really is no plans going into it! He is a really well-rounded guy. He did look great in his last fight but I'm a different fighter than [Donald] Cerrone. I'm not expecting the fight to be the same. I'm just training to get better everywhere and make him fight my fight when I get in there,” he says.
“This is a really exciting one and I'm really fired up. I've a ton of respect for him. His whole camp is a great group of guys so I know what he is training with every day, so I really have a fire under my ass for this one and I am looking at coming in the best I've ever been.”