Interview with “Fightshark” Mark Miller

fsmiller1 300x180 Interview with Fightshark Mark Miller

If you don’t know who Mark Miller is, take the time to read this interview with an amazing fighter and human being.  He makes his return to the ring, the first combatant to come back from open heart surgery on May 28th.  He’ll also be writing a bi-weekly blog for us, to share his struggles, successes and climb back into the ring.  I felt honored to have had the opportunity to interview him.

MMA Valor: “Mark, for those of our readers who might not know your story, can you give some history on you as a fighter?”

Mark Miller: “Sure!  My father introduced me to boxing when I was a child.  He was an athlete himself, and a big boxing fan.  I can remember watching Ali vs. Spinks with him in 1978, and the combination of the excitement, his enthusiasm, and the idea of being in a sport where you only had yourself to rely on thrilled me.  I started training in boxing when I was about 6. I started in Tang Soo Do when I was 9, and moved on to Hapkido, then Uechi-ryu, TaeKwondo, and finally kick boxing.  I competed in a lot of martial arts tournaments, but got kicked out regularly for “excessive contact”, so I kind of decided I should probably just do it for real.  At the time it was really hard to get kickboxing fights, and easier to get boxing fights.   I actually started as an amateur boxer when I was 18.  I had 9 amateur fights before I went pro.  In 1993 I had heard about K-1 and just knew that was what I wanted to do.  Andy Hug, Peter Aerts, Maurice Smith, Rob Kaman and Rick Roufus were my greatest influences.  I was so amazed watching Andy throw that obliterating axe kick, or Rick with that side kick, Maurice with his cool technical style… I sought out Maurice, and was invited to come train with him.  Maurice got me my first K-1 fight, and started the whole ball rolling.  I now have 21 professional kickboxing fights.  I dipped my toe in the MMA pool, had a few fights, but I came back to kickboxing as I just prefer the stand-up fighting personally.  I love to watch and be a fan of good MMA, but this is what I know how to do best. “ 

MMA Valor: “So the open heart surgery, when you got the call, saying, here’s what’s wrong and here’s what we need to do, what went through your mind?”

Mark Miller: “Honestly, my initial thought was “so what, I’ll ignore it until after the fight”, as it was discovered during my medicals before a big fight.  In my heart (no pun intended) I knew better.  I went and got an echocardiogram, and it came back terrible.  I didn’t want to hear it, I wanted to fight, and so, I went back to my training camp.  One day while hitting pads my friend who was holding them looked at me and said “yeah we’re done”.  I asked why, and he looked at me and said “YOU ARE BLUE YOU MORON.”  I went and looked at myself in the mirror, and he was right.  So I called my doctor right away.”

MMA Valor: “Do you ever consider tatting up the scar area so fight commissions don’t sweat you about the scar?” (Joking)

Mark Miller: “Not even joking, of course I have!  Mr Cartoon is a good friend and has tattooed me before.  He did the hanna mask on my neck.  He and I had talked about putting something together to cover it.  Now I think more about possible tattooing something around it to showcase it.   I mean, A) I’m going to have to have the surgery again in the future, no use wasting good ink on a place that will get cut up, and B) I’m very proud of the fans that going through this surgery has brought me.  I’ve connected with a lot of “survivors”.  People who have gone through unbelievable struggle, and come out the other side.  I feel that this scar sort of ties me to them.  I had one young man who has been through the same surgery twice tell me “wear your scar like a badge of honor.”  It resonated with me, in that I am so honored to be here, and to have the support of the people that I do.”

MMA Valor: “How steady has your training been in the past few years since the surgery?”

fsmiller3 300x199 Interview with Fightshark Mark Miller

Mark Miller: “Well, pretty steady, but certain things have shifted and improved.  After I buried my parents and brother, I moved to Vegas.  I went to train at Extreme Couture, thinking I was coming back to MMA, instead of kickboxing.  I was running away from a lot of pain, and fear and Vegas is a terrible place to be when you need to get your head straight.  I hit my training hard, but I also hit the partying hard.  When I wasn’t training, I was out drinking.  I had myself convinced that if I stuck to a vegan diet, then it would somehow counter all of the drinking I was doing.  I was a mess, mentally.  I wasn’t sleeping.  I was so full of pain that I just tried to numb out.  I was either training and beating the hell out of myself at the gym, or I was busy partying.  I wised up and tried to make a change around end of 2008.  I pulled a geographic and moved to Los Angeles.  I was still drinking and sort of living the bohemian life, traveling and training with all kinds of people, but didn’t have a “home” gym.  In 2009 I did a lot of soul searching.  I got with some really good people who have helped me to start working through and processing what I went through.  I got sober in January of 2010.  Since then, I’ve been completely streamlined, focused, and on a great path.”

MMA Valor: “So it seems like all in a short period of time, you had major, major life issues affect you.  Did you ever wonder if you’d see the other side of the tunnel?”

Mark Miller: “Did I wonder if I would make it through?  For a while there, I didn’t think about what would happen to me at all.  I mean, I was in a car with a guy who was dead drunk one night when I was in Austin, and like an idiot, my seatbelt wasn’t fastened.  Well, the guy driving crashed head on into a jeep while it was parked.  I found myself on the hood of the vehicle after crashing through the windshield, bleeding all over,  my face like a jigsaw puzzle, wondering “what the fuck am I doing?!”  I mean, it was a wakeup call.  It really hit me how unkind I was being to me, to put myself in those positions so carelessly.  It still took me awhile to get my shit together, and it still takes daily work, but I definitely have had someone or something looking out for me, for there was a time when I certainly didn’t know how to find value in myself at all.”

MMA Valor: “Throughout all the adversity what has kept you going?  I saw on the movie trailer that you said you lost people very close to you in a short period of time.  For most of us, we can’t get off the couch to train, or improve our lives, but here you are with these gigantic issues with your health, the loss of family I mean, how the hell did you keep going?”

Mark Miller: “That’s the easiest question to answer.  My kids.  I have three sons, and while I may have gotten really confused when it came to knowing how to love myself for a while, I was never confused about that.  They mean everything to me, and they were a huge part of what has inspired me to get up, to keep going.  I can’t have them thinking that giving up is ok, or that their dad was someone who just gave up.  They deserve better than that from me.  They deserve me at my best.  Plus, now, I have such an unbelievable fan base, and group of people who are helping to manage me through this fight, that all of the kindness and support, while overwhelming at times, continues to remind me of why I do this.  To be the best that I can, to make the people happy, to make my kids proud, and to finally fulfill my potential. “

MMA Valor: “I saw the trailer for your movie, when is that coming out?”

Mark Mille: “The movie needed an ending.  Now that the official comeback fight is really happening on May 28th, that day will most likely be the final day of filming, then it will go to editing.  Keep your eyes peeled, for Jeff Dernlan, the director, is going to be chomping at the bit to get it out ASAP!  He wants to invade Cannes!”

MMA Valor: “Was it weird being followed by a team of cameramen?  Some people would thrive on it, some, not so much, what was your take on it?”

Mark Miller: “At first it was weird, but soon it didn’t bother me at all.  I’m kind of the same all the time, to everybody, and I think that plays a part in how comfortable one finds oneself in front of a camera.  The fact that the people making the film are friends definitely helped.  I have felt very comfortable with them following me.”

MMA Valor: “How’d you get the nickname, the Shark?”

Mark Miller: “In early 97’ a trainer commented after a sparring session that when I hurt an opponent I turn on the jets, like when a shark smells blood in the water.  The fact that it rhymes with Mark is really what got it to stick.  Over time it evolved to ‘Fightshark.’”

MMA Valor: “You have a ton of tattoos, but the lead and pipe on each hand are my favorites.  Any others coming soon?  Also, what was the first tattoo you ever got?”

Mark Miller: “Yeah, I have a lot more to get, I still have a lot of blank skin!  The first tattoo I ever got I actually still have.  It’s a dragon on my left arm.  I’d like to finish my left leg, but honestly, tattoos are going on the back burner until I’m done fighting, they require too much time off.”

MMA Valor: “You started in K1, and then transitioned into MMA…what’s the hardest part of that transition for you?”

Mark Miller: “The hardest part of it was the fact that while I had been busy becoming an expert at one thing, all of these guys had been studying at being good at many things.  My stand up is better than most guys in MMA, but they have wrestling and jiu jitsu.  I grew up in Pennsylvania, so I have some wrestling experience, you can’t live in this state and not, but I’m nowhere near some of these guys, and really, that’s what is dominating MMA now.  Talented, powerful wrestlers.  Striking is more of a decoration on MMA, rather than the actual cake.”

MMA Valor: “Ok, let’s jump towards your upcoming fight in May.  Where are you training?”

Mark Miller: “I’m training in West L.A. with Buddy McGirt and Rob Kaman to polish up my stand up.  Doing my strength and conditioning with Steve Melero at Break Thru, and also with former NFL star Ken Rose who implements some old school tried and true training methods.  Shelby Jones is doing my nutrition, and helping with my recovery.  And making sure I write all my articles and blogs on time.”

MMA Valor: “I heard from a little bird, named Shelby, and now you’ve confirmed that you’ve got Buddy McGirt helping you.  How awesome is it to have a fight legend and a training legend in your corner?”

fsmiller41 300x260 Interview with Fightshark Mark Miller

Mark Miller: “I’ve been a fan of Buddy’s as a fighter since the 80’s, with his two classic fights with Pernell Whitaker, and an even bigger fan of him as a trainer.  Going to meet up with him the first time was intense.  Shelby was there, and she is also a huge fan.  You’d think that talking to one of your biggest idols would have been stressful, but he can make anyone feel comfortable, calm, and he became like instant family.  I completely trust him, and I can honestly say that about everyone involved in this fight camp.  You have no idea how unbelievably important that is, and I am grateful to have him on board.  Rob Kaman was really no different.  I’ve been a huge fan of Rob’s since the 80’s too.  The man is an absolute legend in my world.  So I am working with 2 of the men I grew up being a fan of.  Its pretty mind blowing and I count my blessings everyday.”

MMA Valor: “So when you’re not training, hanging on twitter or getting tattoos, what do you like to do with your time?”

Mark Miller: “I’m an avid fan of cow-tipping.  Honestly, I don’t do much.  I like to read, watch movies, documentaries mainly, and listen to music.  I volunteer at the Villalobos rescue center when I can.  I love to be around those dogs.”

MMA Valor: “What do you know about your Ultimate GLORY opponent in May, Nikolaj Falin?”

Mark Miller: “I know he’s a big man.  He is coming off a loss to Gokhan Saki, which is nothing to be ashamed of as Gokhan is one of the greatest kickboxers in the world.  I’m truly honored to be facing such a respectable opponent my first fight back.”

MMA Valor: “When did you get the news that the fight was signed?”

Mark Miller: “Well, interestingly enough, I knew that the contract was in final negotiations, but I was being really hush hush about it, as I had had other fights planned in the past, and they had fallen through.  Also, Martijn DeJong, the promoter for United Glory, had asked me to wait to break the news until all was settled.  Then on the evening of April 2nd, I see this tweet from Martijn pop up that announced my fighting on the card.  I started retweeting like crazy, and went and got some celebratory late night snacks.  So I kind of found out the same time everyone else did.”

MMA Valor: “Is this your first trip to Russia?”

Mark Miller: “Yes.  I’ve been as far as the airport before, but never been in the country for any length of time.  It’s a little heavy and a little sentimental for me as my mother’s parents were from the Ukraine.  I have familial ties to Eastern Europe, and it sort of feels right to be fighting there for my first fight back.  It’s almost as though I know she will be there, like she had some hand in it.”

MMA Valor:  “Are there any sponsors or people you’d like to thank before we let you go?”

Mark Miller: “Yes.  Dave Walsh at for putting this whole fight together and for being a consummate professional, as well as a good friend.  I look forward to building an empire with this guy.  To Shelby as well, the newest addition to and as annoying a slave driver as she can be, she’s part of what keeps me in line and keeps me motivated.(because of her, the trains run on time)  To Headblade, BAMF, and Headrush for their support.  To Buddy McGirt, Rob Kaman, Steve Melero, and Ken Rose for giving me the best camp in the world.  Every one of these men is a diamond.  To Gail Casey, who has been like a second mother to me, even when I had forgotten how insufferable moms can be, she has really gone above and beyond the call of duty.  To Martijn DeJong who I could not possibly thank enough for the amazing opportunity to return to what I love in one of the greatest organizations around.  And last but not least, to Benny, Patrick, and Ronan, Daddy’s going to do his best guys, thank you for your love.”

Mark Miller is the one of the most amazing people in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.  As he trains and prepares for his return to the ring, he will be providing our readers with a bi-weekly blog to keep us informed on how it’s going and share his thoughts on this monumental return to action.

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2 Responses to Interview with “Fightshark” Mark Miller

  1. austin hires says:

    hey whats up

  2. Whats up Austin, Hows it going?

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