Jim Miller didn’t blink when the UFC called with an offer to fight at its Jan. 13 card.
Despite his years-long plan to compete at the historic UFC 300 event that takes place just three months later on April 13 — after previously appearing at UFC 100 and UFC 200 — the veteran lightweight refused to sideline himself to wait for that opportunity. With the most fights and most wins in UFC history already on his résumé, Miller couldn’t fathom turning down a date or an opponent just because he wanted to be the only fighter to participate in all three anniversary cards.
“I never wanted to sit and wait,” Miller told MMA Fighting. “April 13, it would be 10 and a half months between my fight in June and then to UFC 300. That’s too long of a layoff, especially at this age. I just turned 40. Time matters. With each day that goes by, the end of my career comes closer, so I’d rather be in the mix in the gym, working out, getting prepared for fights and fighting.
“I asked to fight before the end of the year. I wanted to fight November, maybe early December, but that ended up not happening so here we are into 2024 and I’ve got Gabriel Benitez.”
When he initially announced plans to appear at UFC 300, Miller approached it with a sense of finality. He always stated he wanted to compete long enough that he could cap off his career becoming the only fighter to fight on all three historic UFC events.
That’s no longer the case, however, as Miller now expects that he’ll fight well past UFC 300, but he absolutely still intends on fighting at that card.
“Listen, at this point, 300 it’s important,” Miller said. “I’ve been talking about it for a few years. When I originally brought it up, this was probably four years ago, I wasn’t certain where I would be today. I feel like I’m in a better place than I anticipated I would be. I was bringing it up to be like, ‘Hey, I was almost going to retire at [UFC] 200 so might as well retire at 300,’ but that’s not the plans anymore. I’m not planning on hanging them up just yet.”
Miller admits his shift in mindset really comes down to his health as well as his recent performances, which have seen him amass an impressive 4-1 record over his past five fights, with all of his wins coming by knockout or submission.
When he first considered retirement on the horizon, the New Jersey native had just been diagnosed with Lyme disease — a condition that can result in all sorts of ailments, including constant pain, swelling, and numbness — and Miller felt it was probably time to call it a career.
Now a few years removed from his recovery, Miller feels better than ever, so he’s not even contemplating the end of his career, although he knows the unpredictable nature of the fight game could change that at any given moment.
“That is not the plan [to retire at UFC 300], but I am comfortable talking about it because I was so close,” Miller explained. “I was preparing for UFC 196 just in agony and barely able to train, and I was like, ‘I can’t do this anymore, might as well get to [UFC] 200, fight on both, that’d be great, retire then.’ I was diagnosed with Lyme disease three days prior to [UFC] 196, I was able to get through that. I’ve already looked retirement in the eye. I’ve already decided to do it so it’s easy for me to talk about it. I know that not many of my peers are willing to talk about it. Not many other professional athletes are willing to talk about it, but since I was so close to it happening, and fortunately what was driving me to make that decision was something that was out of my control but also fixable.
“I got a handle on Lyme and I know things could happen at any moment. I hurt myself a little over a year ago bending over in the kitchen to pick up a wrapper that one of my kids had dropped and I put a decent tear in my patella tendon. This could happen at any time. I could have a devastating injury at any time, one that leads me to a year, 18 months of recovery and I don’t know if I have that in me at 40. I’m playing it by ear, but where I sit, right here today, UFC 300 is not my last fight.”
Miller no longer plans on setting a timetable for his career, but he knows that day will come sooner or later. Unlike some of his contemporaries like Joe Lauzon, who has said he will eventually stop fighting but probably never declare his retirement, Miller definitely plans on announcing his intention to call it a career.
In fact, Miller actually looks forward to the chance to go out in one final blaze of glory.
“I get excited about knowing that a fight will be my last one,” Miller said. “That there is nothing after that. There’s nothing left to hold back for. I’m going to have to define it and it might just be from fighting in the UFC or MMA. I’ll obviously still be training and maybe I’ll take up some of the offers I get to compete in jiu-jitsu and stuff like that and who knows, there’s a lot of guys making money in boxing. Who knows. But I will define it. I will have that last fight.
“I want to know going into it. Obviously, things can happen and if something happens in a fight and I feel like we’re not coming back from this any time soon and we might have to do it right there but I’m not the type that makes emotional decisions. I want to know ahead of time. I’d like everybody to know ahead of time and just go out and have fun and put on a show and hopefully go out on what will be remembered a quintessential Jim Miller fight.”
As far as UFC 300 goes, Miller was promised a slot at the same time he was offered the fight with Benitez at UFC Vegas 84, but he’s not thinking any further past Jan. 13.
For now, anyways.
“I haven’t even entertained any of the, ‘Who do you want to fight [at UFC 300]?’ Any of that,” Miller said. “It’s on the radar, it’s blipping, but it’s off the screen. I’m preparing for the 13th. I’m preparing for Benitez. I’m going to go in there and I’m going to fight my fight. Because I have a set of standards that I have for myself and I’m going to make it a Jim Miller fight. I want to come out from the fight excited with my performance so I’m going to go out there and try to be as violent as possible and make it a tough fight. Make it one of my fights.
“It’s cool to hear people talk about it, hear Dana [White] mention it. When Sean Shelby called me up to offer me this fight, he said, ‘It will be a couple of months and then you’ll get 300,’ so hearing him say that a couple of months ago was great. I have a fight in a week and a half and that’s the only thing that’s been on my mind.”