Miller fighting for respect, shot at title

Jim Miller, right, has been battling his way toward a title shot for longer than he'd like. Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

MONTREAL -- Despite a five-fight win streak and an impressive 7-1-0 mark inside the Octagon, lightweight Jim Miller tends to go unnoticed.

Whenever talk of the best 155-pound fighters arises, Miller's name is rarely mentioned, and it's not as if he hasn't done his part to get in the conversation.

Miller has been one of UFC's most active fighters this year. He will step into the Octagon for the fourth time in 2010 when he meets Charles Oliveira on Saturday at UFC 124.

It's unusual for a fighter to go on such an impressive win streak, in a relatively short period, and receive so little attention.

One way of getting more public attention is to face high-profile competition. Unfortunately for Miller, Oliveira doesn't fit that bill, at least not now. While Oliveira opened quite a few eyes in September with a submission win over former TUF champion Efrain Escudero, he is still regarded as a work-in-progress, a prospect.

If Miller expects to land a title fight in the not-too-distant future, beating highly touted prospects won't make it happen.

No one knows this better than Miller, but he isn't complaining. Though Oliveira isn't the opponent he'd prefer at this time, Miller can see some positives coming from the matchup.

"I would have liked to be fighting a higher-profile guy on Saturday, but Charles is a skilled up-and-comer," Miller told ESPN.com. "My goal is to fight for the lightweight title, and if I win this fight it puts me one step closer to that goal. I can't complain; this will be my fourth fight this year. Most guys would love to get four fights in one year."

He might not have been Miller's first choice for an opponent at Bell Centre, but Oliveira is excited about taking on one of the most respected lightweights in UFC.

This will be only the third UFC bout for Oliveira and he plans to erase any mention of him as a prospect. He views this fight as another chance to raise more eyebrows.

"If I win this fight, the UFC will likely open the door to me for bigger fights," Oliveira said. "I will get to fight the top guys in the division and pretty soon get a title shot.

"I'm a show guy. I come to fight. I want everybody to know who I am. I want to finish this fight early, but even if it goes the distance, and the judges say I'm the winner, people will know who I am."

Miller does not intend to be anyone's steppingstone. He has 20 professional fights under his belt and only two men have defeated him -- and they will face each other Jan. 1 for the lightweight title: UFC champion Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard.

At this stage of his career, Miller isn't playing second-fiddle to anyone. Oliveira has solid jiu-jitsu technique, but he's not to be taken lightly in the Muay Thai and boxing departments.

More important, Oliveira is undefeated in 14 pro bouts. Miller has faced better opposition, but Oliveira is undaunted. He will fight anyone UFC places in front of him, even a skilled veteran like Miller. And Oliveira expects to win this fight, no matter where the action takes place.

"I don't choose my fights," Oliveira said. "I just want to fight the best. Jim Miller is one of the best guys in the lightweight division. I trust my jiu-jitsu, but wherever the fight goes, I will be ready. If Jim Miller stands, I will be ready. If he goes to the ground, I will take him there."

Oliveira might not have much name recognition at this time, but he has Miller's attention. Miller has trained vigorously for this fight.

A loss to Oliveira will snap the win streak and that is something Miller refuses to let happen. Getting a title shot soon has become a driving force for Miller; he will not allow a highly touted prospect to interrupt his plans.

Miller is confident he has all the tools necessary -- experience and skillset -- to hand Oliveira his first defeat in mixed martial arts.

"Charles has very good jiu-jitsu, but I am a black belt too," Miller said. "I'm very comfortable on the ground. He also has very good Muay Thai.

"I'm not looking past him."

Franklin McNeil covers MMA and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Franklin_McNeil.