Jim Miller has seen a lot in his 16 years in the fight game.
The MMA veteran’s 38 UFC bouts are more than any other fighter in history, and Miller has faced a who’s who of lightweight royalty over that time. That includes a two-fight series with current UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira. Miller first fought and defeated the Brazilian submission savant back in 2010, then rematched him and lost in 2018, so he’s had a firsthand ticket to watch the remarkable journey Oliveira has taken to gold.
And Miller admitted that he’s blown away to see who Oliveira has become.
“It’s awesome. It’s absolutely awesome to see,” Miller said recently on The MMA Hour. “He had those ups and down early, and then it’s just like, man, he hit that second stride, which is really not easy to do in this game. And to be able to get that head of steam going again and to have the performances that he’s had, it’s special. It really is special. And I’m super, super excited for him, super proud to have shared the octagon with him twice, and see where he’s at now. From where he’s come to what he’s done, it’s awesome.”
In a strange way, Miller’s series with Oliveira tells the perfect story of Oliveira’s improbable evolution. When they first fought in 2010 at UFC 124, Oliveira was a one-dimensional prospect still finding his sea legs in the UFC, and Miller handed him the first loss of his career with a first-round kneebar submission. By the time of the rematch in 2018, however, Oliveira had evolved into a well-rounded monster who was riding high in the midst of his current nine-fight win streak, and he blew through Miller in a mere 75 seconds.
Miller is 38 years old and a realist, so he knows the ship has likely sailed for him to ever get a third crack at Oliveira. His days of contending for titles are behind him. But Miller did admit that the rubber match with Oliveira is “probably” his current dream fight in the UFC.
“I went in and he was undefeated when we fought — and I steamrolled him,” Miller said. “And then when we fought that [second] time, he steamrolled me. So it’s completely different sides of the spectrum. So yeah, I’d like to do it again, and like I said, I’ve got a ton of respect for the guy. I’m a fan of his. It’d be awesome to share the octagon again with him.”
Oliveira, of course, is busy at the moment with another former opponent of Miller’s. The Brazilian is slated to make the first defense of his title against Dustin Poirier on Dec. 11 at UFC 269.
Miller lost a back-and-forth war with Poirier in 2017 as part of Poirier’s current hot streak that has seen the Louisiana native drop just one of his past 10 fights.
When asked who he’s favoring between his two former opponents in their upcoming title bout, as much as he admires what Oliveira has accomplished, Miller couldn’t help but side with the man who sits in the No. 1 spot atop MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings.
“I’m leaning a little bit more towards Dustin,” Miller said. “I just think he’s a bit more durable. Charles is dangerous everywhere, but he gets put in tough spots and I think that if Dustin gets him there, he’s going to just keep it on him and he’s so good at keeping the momentum, whereas Dustin is really hard to get into trouble. It takes a lot for guys to put him into trouble. So yeah, I’m just leaning a little bit more towards Dustin in this one.”