(Photo courtesy of UFC.com)
By Elias Cepeda for CagePotato
Losing is always miserable, but in a combat sport like MMA, getting beaten is no figure of speech. If you lose, you hurt; physically and badly. The risk and danger involved in MMA competition helps make it more exciting than other sports, but behind every highlight-reel knockout and submission is ugly and unfortunate pain — at least for the guy laid out.
Over four years as a pro and nearly twenty fights Cole Miller (15-4) had never been the guy on his back, unconscious after a fight. But there he was being revived and staring up at the lights last September after being dropped by Efrain Escudero.
The hardest part for Miller was not losing in and of itself, or the headache he had to deal with for a bit afterwards. He says it came down to having so much seemingly productive work and sacrifice be rebuffed so abruptly.
“Knowing that I trained that hard, sacrificed a lot in my personal life for the 10-12 weeks in camp all for three and a half minutes and it didn’t go my way. That was disheartening to say the least. Being able to let it go. Accepting that that kind of thing happens and happened for the first time and that it could happen again. Knowing that I’m just a man, you know? These were the hardest parts of dealing with that loss,” Miller says.
From the moment Miller got back to his feet after getting stopped by Escudero, he’s had one goal — getting back in the cage and laying it all on the line again as soon as possible. Miller got in touch with his UFC bosses and began asking what openings there could be for him to fill on upcoming cards.
Miller got his wish and is now booked to fight the ultra-talented Dan Lauzon (12-2) — who three years ago became the youngest fighter to ever fight in the UFC — this Saturday at UFC 108. To observers the decision to fight again so soon may not seem like the healthiest one for Miller; he had a three-month training camp the last time out and now will be fighting just three months after a concussive bout. But the 25-year-old believes fighting frequently is crucial to him succeeding.
“I don’t want to blame the result on any one thing one thing but it has been frustrating to me that I haven’t had the ability to get any kind of momentum going,” Miller explains.
“Every time it seems like I’m getting something started it comes to a halt. I won the [Jorge] Gurgel fight (a dramatic last second submission win over the black belt veteran in 2008) and then I was sidelined with a knee surgery afterwards and had a nine-month layoff. Then I fought Junie [Browning] and had less than two minutes in the ring with him. Then after not even getting hit that whole fight I had to wait five more months or so before I could fight Efrain. So basically when I fought Efrain it had been over a year since I’d had more than five minutes of combined ring time. I like to fight a lot.”
And when someone who has more fights, including amateur and kickboxing contests, than years lived as Miller does says that, fans can believe it. Losing again doesn’t scare Miller either. Many fighters like Miller balance an attitude of invincibility with the type of desperate work in the gym borne out of understanding their chances of losing. Escudero may have been the first guy to actually put Miller out cold, but he had run that type of scenario through his own head many times before.
“I try to think about everything happening in a fight,” Miller admits. “Winning, losing, getting knocked out, getting submitted — I want to think about all these options, be realistic, and acknowledge that all these things can happen so that way I’m not afraid to take risks once I do fight. Once I’m in there I’ve already accepted that these things can happen so I shouldn’t fight with hesitance or conservatively. It’s not my job to win fights; it’s just my job to fight.”
And Miller knows that as confident as he was the last time around, he can still improve a lot. According to him, Miller’s biggest mistake against Escudero was a mental one.
“I had fought in front of big crowds before so it shouldn’t have been an issue but I listened to them too much. I was controlling the action by moving forward and pressuring him but I started to hear some boos so I started to get more aggressive, which wasn’t the gameplan but it is my natural fighting style,” Miller says.
Though Dan Lauzon, younger brother of fellow UFC lightweight Joe, has been out of the organization for some time now, Miller knows he can’t afford any similar lapses against his next opponent. Miller is characteristically confident, even cocky while assessing the bout, but believes Lauzon is a dangerous man.
“It’s the same story as always for me in that I believe I’m the technically better fighter in every aspect, except maybe in wrestling. In the clinch, on the floor and on the feet, I think I’m the more technical fighter. But his strength is his strength and my biggest weakness is my weakness. He’s big at about 5’11 and a bit heavier than me. He’s a good fighter and no joke with eight wins in a row. Maybe most of those wins haven’t come against that great of competition but I feel that’s an advantage for him because he’s been able to take some new things he’s learning in training and make them work so that now they are in his arsenal and he can pull them off in fights. He’s an aggressive fighter and not afraid to take risks, which I can appreciate. It should make for an exciting fight as long as he fights the way he always has,” Miller believes.
If there’s an edge to Miller’s blunt breakdown of his matchup with Lauzon, it might be because with a fight on January 2nd, he’s spent the holidays away from the friends and family found in his native Georgia, training hard at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida. The Lauzons have their own gym in their home state of Massachusetts and typically conduct their camps there. Always breaking down every advantage and liability, searching for added motivation and running through fight situations in his head, Miller touches on one final possible thing he has going for him in his comeback bout.
“I hope he [was] sitting around at Christmas time. I hope he’s chilling because you’d better believe I was in the gym on Christmas day. I know he doesn’t go away for his training camps. Good, stay at home. I hope he enjoys those little things you take for granted during the holidays. I’m not going to see my friends or family. Christmas and every other day I wake up, go do my conditioning in the morning and then my sparring at night.”