Competition in Thailand gives Miller fresh start to martial arts career
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
With six fights under his belt, Joe Miller began to second-guess his chances of finding success as a kick-boxer or a mixed martial arts fighter. His 1-5 record just wasn’t encouraging.
For months the question of continuing tormented the Tallahassee fighter until he realized his passion for the sport was too strong to give up.
“I decided to devote myself to it entirely,” said Miller, 30. “I couldn’t let it go.”
On Jan. 21, a rejuvenated Miller will step into the octagon at The Moon for his first professional MMA bout. The fight is one of the undercard events on the first pro Combat Night show.
Miller will meet Javanis Ross, of Stark in a three-round lightweight bout. While it will be his first MMA fight in some time, Miller said he is prepared to face his opponent who has a strong wrestling background.
“I feel really good,” Miller said. “It’s the best I’ve ever felt mentally. I’m not overly anxious, not overly calm. I’m right where I need to be.”
In an effort to prove he is good enough to continue his career, Miller traveled to Thailand, where mau-thai, which is commonly known as kick-boxing in America, to test his skills. After six months, he returned with a 6-3 record for an overall mark of 10-6.
The trip wasn’t just to prove himself, but help build his record, Miller said. He scored a handful of knockouts and beat some of the top fighters in the area, he said.
He came back to Tallahassee last November brimming with confidence.
“It gave me a realistic view of where I was,” he said. “I was confident that I was on that level but I hadn’t had enough ring time to know that for sure. I got the ring time and I got to do the things I know that I could do.”
The early setbacks that Miller suffered wasn’t because he didn’t have the talent, said Sky Rudloe, one of Miller’s sparring partners at Train, Fight, Win gym. Rudloe suspected that Miller’s problem was maintaining his focus in the ring.
“It was never that he should have ever been a 1-5 fighter,” Rudloe said. “He had all the skills in the world in sparring and on the pads but when he got in the ring he would freeze up.”
Miller began training as a kick-boxer at age 17. He fashioned himself off actor and martial guru Jean-Claude Van Damme, who he said inspired him to get into the sport. Miller trained most of his early years without a coach, relying on resources such as books and videos to grasp the fundamentals.
He spent three years training, giving himself time to focus on studies at FSU for a degree in English, before taking his first amateur fight. In between bouts, he writes for several websites.
But he insists that fighting is his passion and despite his age he doesn’t plan to retire any time soon.
“As long as my body works and I’m breathing,” he said, “I’m doing it.”