That deeper, personal focus and drive to showcase as much of himself and his talents as possible is what makes Miller a “Professional Fighter” — capital P, capital F — and a big part of what has contributed to the long-time lightweight’s legacy as one of the most respected men to ever step into the Octagon.
“Obviously I always wanted the opportunity to challenge for the title and I still feel that I have it left in me to make a run for it, but I don’t know if it would be worth it if I lost the respect of my peers,” said Miller, illustrating just how much weight the reverence of his contemporaries means to him. “If you told me that I had to lose the respect of my peers in the process, I don’t know; I don’t think it would be worth it.
“The numbers, they don’t really do anything for me,” he continued. “When perennial contenders in other weight classes come up and say they’re huge fans, that means something to me; it really does.
“That’s the feather in my cap; that’s the big one, because there will be nothing tied to that. There is never going to be anything that says that in a record book; it’s just going to be something where I know that I’ve earned the respect of my peers, and that’s all that I need.
“It’s a heavy one,” he added, a deep exhale chasing his words. “I didn’t get the respect from them by doing something outside of the Octagon — I did it by going out and fighting as hard as I could and leaving it in there.”
He’s sure to do the same again on Saturday when faces off with Roberts, the 26-year-old Contender Series graduate making a quick turnaround after registering a second-round submission win over Brok Weaver at the end of May.
Some in Miller’s position may take offense to being positioned opposite a surging upstart looking to take a major step forward in their careers, unwilling to be the veteran stalwart who turns into the vanquished foe that propelled the new name further up the rankings.
But as you would expect, Miller has no quarrel with being paired up with Roberts, understanding that this is how the machine works and welcoming the opportunity to test himself against one of the few remaining lightweights on the UFC roster he’s still yet to face.
“I want guys to call me out. I want guys to ask to fight me; it shouldn’t be the other way around,” offered the veteran. “In the beginning, I wanted to fight BJ Penn; that’s who was training to fight in my third and fourth fight ever. I want these guys to want to fight me and it’s cool that they do.
“He’s tough, coming off a good win and he’s got a head of steam behind him,” he said of Roberts. “He’s a dangerous dude and I’m ready for that.”
Of course he is.
He’s Jim Miller, Professional Fighter, and being ready to face dangerous dudes is what he does.