By Elias Cepeda
Heading into his featherweight bout against Bart Palaszewski last April, Cole Miller had lost two fights in a row for the first time in his ten-year MMA career. He did not want to lose a third.
A third straight loss would likely mean being cut by the UFC, where he’s made his living for the past six years. “Not losing for a third time wasn’t really motivation, it was just a matter of the fact that if I lost, I’d be out,” he tells CagePotato.
“I had to think about things I’d do outside of fighting to make money if I got cut and had to fight on smaller shows again where the pay isn’t as good as the UFC’s. I thought about things I could do and how I could set myself up other than fighting in order to make a living.”
Miller did not lose for a third consecutive time, however, and he has another UFC bout scheduled at this Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 26 in Boston. It wasn’t long after he stopped Palaszewski with a rear naked choke at the TUF 17 Finale that Cole was looking for another fight.
“[The feeling of winning again] was a relief, mostly,” he remembers. “Bart might be the best guy I’ve ever beaten. I turned my attention to fighting again pretty soon, though. I thought I’d be able to get another fight in before now, maybe as a substitute or something, but I wasn’t able to.”
Instead, Miller settles for an incredibly tough fight against fellow TUF 5 season member Manny Gamburyan about four months after his last fight. Miller says he’s worked hard to improve between appearances, but that the Armenian judoka poses unique challenges.
“I would say that yeah, I’ve improved since April,” Cole says. “But Manny is such a specific challenge that it’s really more about preparing for him than anything. His size and his style make for such a unique fight.”
Both fighters, of course, are featherweights but Miller is 6’1″ to Gamburyan’s 5’5″. Cole knows that it won’t be enough to simply have a longer reach than his opponent — not when that opponent has an aggressive style and hits like an anvil.
“He just keeps coming forward, throwing bombs,” Cole says of Manny.
“He has an unorthodox striking style but hits hard and doesn’t stop swinging until he drops his opponents or takes them down. And on the ground he’s good as well, but most of his stuff comes from Judo, Sambo and catch wrestling, so it is different than the looks you get from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts. We respect him but I know that I’ve done the training to be ready for what he’ll bring.”