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The Mark Miller Interview by Rea Frey

mark-miller-iflChicago native Mark Miller looks like a typical fighter. With a myriad of tattoos on his arms, a solid build, and his nose and ears marked by his relentless pursuit on the mat, this laid back fighter approaches everything with ease. He’s just as likely to make you laugh as he is to put up his thick fists in a mock old school boxing style and land a quick left hook to your chin. With a record of 14-5, Miller will make his Strikeforce debut November 7 against local fighter Deray Davis (5-1-1) in one of the preliminary bouts. Best known for his stint on season 9 of The Ultimate Fighter, this heavy-handed fighter is heralded for his strength and his stand-up game.


“Coming up as a kid, I was always a boxing fan,” Miller says. “I always liked watching Mike Tyson smash people in the face. Then, Ultimate Fighting came out, and I thought, ‘Man, that’s some cool shit. I want to do that one day.’ I remember telling one of my friends, ‘One day, I’m going to fight on TV like those guys.’ And I did.

“I started boxing in high school for fun. When I joined the military, I saw some guys training MMA one day on base at the gym. I asked them if I could start working out with them and they let me. I picked up everything pretty fast. I ended up training with them all the time while I was there. Six months later, they asked me if I wanted to fight. A promoter in Florida had a guy drop out of a fight, and they needed a replacement. With a week’s notice, I took the fight. I won in the first round by submission, which doesn’t happen often with my fights. I’m not really a submission guy. From there, I kind of fell in love with fighting, and I’ve been fighting ever since.

“I fought on and off for fun for a couple of years. I was working construction and got laid off for the winter, and in order to make extra money, I just started fighting more often. I kept winning fights. I won some Midwest titles. People were just telling me, ‘You should do this instead of working full-time. You only have a window in your life where you’re able to fight.’ So, I kept fighting, and I kept winning. Then, I got offered a fight for the IFL. That was three years ago. Since then, I’ve been fighting full-time. I like fighting in front of big crowds. That’s a rush.”

“Stand-up is definitely my favorite part of MMA,” he continues. “I love boxing. I never really wanted to be a boxer, though. The whole idea of getting punched in the face the whole time didn’t really appeal to me that much with boxing. I like having the options of kicking and kneeing. I like the stand-up, because I think it’s more exciting for the fans, and it’s more exciting for me. I never really shoot takedowns, but I have the option, if I felt like it.” He shrugs and laughs. “I don’t think I’ve ever shot a takedown in my life.” Then why not be a boxer? “I’m too short to be a boxer,” Miller says. “If I was a boxer, I’d have to fight at 147. That’s not happening. Not as long as Taco Bell exists.

“I think the future of MMA is that it’s going to be the biggest sport around. I have mixed emotions about it, actually. As the sport grows, it means better money for the fighters and a better way to make a living, but it also means a massive influx of douche bags. It’s already started. You can go out to any bar on any given weekend and see guys with their MMA shirts on who ‘fight’ UFC. It has its pros and its cons. So, if I had to give local fighters any advice, it would be to take your time. Really learn the sport before you just jump into it. It’s not always about sparring everyday. Take the time to learn the techniques. Evolve as a fighter. Don’t just jump into it. Especially if you’re young. You’ve got all the time in the world. Don’t just take a couple of classes, fight in a local show, win a fight and then tell everybody you’re a UFC fighter. Take your time. Keep your mouth shut. Work hard in the gym. In time, if you dedicate yourself, it will all pay off.”

The Ultimate Fighter

“I never had any desire to go on that show. The idea of living with fifteen guys in a house was so erotic – I mean, no, it never really appealed to me to be on a reality show,” he laughs. “But, I remember they had the tryouts here in Chicago, and a couple of my buddies were going. Me and my friend Kevin, who I ended up fighting on the show, we actually went together. I don’t know how many times we said to each other, ‘Dude, let’s just get the hell out of here.’ It was a fifteen-hour day, there were over 1,000 people there. It was a long, boring process for maybe five minutes of exposure the whole day. We stuck it out, though, and we both ended up getting calls for second interviews. They flew us out to Vegas. We did our interviews and our physicals, and then we both made the show, and lo’ and behold, we both fought each other, which was pretty stupid, I thought. But, I guess if you’re looking for good television, that’s a good way to go about it. Overall, in the house, it was boring as hell. There were no books, no radio, no TV, no music, no anything. And I’m not a kid. I’m a grown man, so I don’t really get into the drama. I don’t sit there and talk about people and play pranks on people and complain and cry. A lot of guys complained a lot and said they couldn’t take it. I was like, ‘Come on, you knew what you signed up for. Deal with it.’ I pretty much kept to myself, but I was close to a couple of guys there. But, I didn’t get involved in any drama.

“I learned a lot of good things from the coaches out there, so it definitely helped me,” he says. “I think certain things I’ve learned will help me – but they aren’t things my coaches haven’t told me before – now, I’m just starting to realize them. Like, I need to relax. I want to turn every fight into a brawl and a street fight, and that’s when I end up doing stupid things and rushing into things. Whereas if I just relax and use my skill, instead of trying to rely on piss and vinegar, I feel like things will turn out a lot better.

“Unlike most fighters, I really don’t have a goal, though. I never set out to be a fighter. I kind of fell into it. I know I said when I was little that one day I would fight on TV, but it wasn’t something that I worked for and worked for. I just kind of fell into it when I lost my job and kept fighting. So, I really don’t have any goals, I just like to fight.”


“My training is usually the same formula: conditioning in the morning and training at night. Depending on the opponent, I try and focus on certain things a little more. It varies from fight to fight. For this upcoming fight, I’ve been focusing a little bit more on my wrestling and not even my defense, but my takedowns too. I’ve been getting a lot of good wrestling work in, and I’ve actually been taking people down, which is not something I’ve done in the past. People get pretty surprised, even in practice, when they see me taking people down. I’m not saying I’m going to shoot a takedown or anything in this fight,” he jokes. “That’s not going to happen. I guarantee it’s not going to happen, but if I could get a body lock slam, I’m taking it. I want to slam somebody,” he says, pounding his fist into his open hand.

Cutting Weight

I’d like to go back in time, find the first person who cut weight, and punch him right in the face. You’re just making life miserable for the future! I don’t cut too much weight, as compared to most guys. I don’t want to win fights because I’m bigger than someone. I fight at 170, but I don’t walk around more than 15 pounds heavier. It’s a pretty easy cut. A lot of guys walk around at 190 and up if they’re fighting at 170. I’d rather just worry about getting better as a fighter than making weight.”

“I just want to say thank you to my friends, family and training partners,” he concludes. “Team Dino Costeas and West Loop Gym. If it wasn’t for all my coaches and training partners, I wouldn’t even be where I’m at today, so I think they deserve all the credit.”

Watch the action Saturday, November 7 on CBS when Mark Miller joins Fedor Emelianenko, Brett Rogers, Jason Miller, Jake Shields, Gerard Mousasi, Thierry Sokoudjou, Antonio Silva and Fabricio Werdum on what promises to be an exciting card at the Sears Centre in Chicago, Illinois.

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