From starting out in judo and karate in the ’70s and ’80s to taking up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 2000, before setting up his first MMA gym alongside Lee Doski in the early 2000s, it’s been some journey in Mixed Martial Arts for Windy Miller.
Miller is now president of the UK MMA Federation and works with fighters such as European Junior Champion Jake Nichols at his gym Bluewave Academy in Suffolk.
Having been involved in MMA for nearly 20 years now, Miller is delighted with how it has developed and believes that the landscape of the sport will continue to change over the coming years.
“What’s really changed is the level of knowledge within the sport, certainly with regards to things like wrestling. So at that level, you’ve seen the technical expertise of individuals go through the roof. Very rapid development.
“For me coming from a background of more traditional martial arts which is a very closed system; this what we do, this is what we’ve always done this is how we do it. The great thing about MMA is that it’s an open system and it’s continually open to change and testing. So at that level MMA has changed.
“In terms of shows, the standard and knowledge of officials, the standard of shows, the quality of shows has gone up massively, particularly with promotions like Cage Warriors being so successful.”
With competitions such as the IMMAF European and World Championships showcasing some of the brightest young talents across the globe, Miller is most impressed with how much amateur MMA has progressed during his time involved with the sport.
But despite UK fighters such as Muhammad Mokaev winning gold at the World Juniors back in November, Miller still feels that the UK has a way to go in order to catch up with other countries.
“The real level where skill has gone through the roof is in amateur MMA. The IMMAF had done a fantastic job with the world championships, I was there last year in Bahrain. The skill level of amateurs is unbelievable and this is where the UK is in danger of getting left behind.
“We had one of our fighters George Chambers, a very good wrestler, jiu-jitsu, good MMA guy, 14-0. In the first round, he gets a guy from Luxembourg. You would think that’s not a problem, but the guy from Luxembourg is 39-1. By the time he was finished with George he was 40-1, in the first round.
“So in this country what you’ve got is people doing 5 or 6 MMA fights, winning a local championship belt and then turning pro. I think you are kidding yourself!”
Miller has several fighters in his ranks at Bluewave that have competed on the European Stage such as Nichols who won gold in Bucharest last year and Jimmy Fell.
And the UKMMAF President thinks that the IMMAF competitions like the European and World Championships provide young fighters with invaluable experience.
“You can say, without being negative towards any of these things, I was cage warriors champion. Or I was contenders Norwich champion or made for the cage champion. These are all worthy things and good shows, there’s no problem with that.
“There’s a difference when you can say I was World champion. Because what you’ve then done is tested yourself against other countries in the world. Of course, this is what the promoters of the big shows are now looking at.
“They’re saying – well these guys have actually gone out and tested themselves against the best fighters from other countries. So then they can look at that and say that they’ve proven themselves to be effective. If you win a regional title in the UK, that’s not quite the same, is it?
“The experience that we’ve had with people going and fighting on the European and World championships which are really beautifully run events has been really good for the development and for the confidence of those young people, so I think it’s great.”
With IMMAF hoping to see the sport at the Olympics in the near future, Miller envisions that MMA will start to follow the blueprint laid out by other Olympic combat sports.
Bury St Edmunds based Miller thinks that we will see amateur fighters start to take a different path in their careers before making a switch to the professional ranks.
“The model is very much the boxing or judo model because IMMAF wants to get into the Olympics so they’re mimicking those models.
“The future for an MMA fighter worldwide will be to start MMA in a club, and then rather like Thai boxing – interclubs. Then fight on local shows, then fight on national shows, get UK team selection, fight in the European’s, fight in the worlds and then go to the big shows like UFC or Bellator or whichever it may be as a professional. Because the big shows are looking and thinking – where can we get our next generation of fighters from?”
It was originally hoped that MMA could debut as a “demonstration sport” at the 2024 Olympics, but these hopes faded when the games were awarded to France, where MMA competition is outlawed.
Now IMMAF president Kerrith Brown has his sights set on MMA being introduced at the 2028 games in Los Angeles where the sport is regulated lawfully by the California State Athletic Commission.
And Miller remains hopeful that we will see MMA at the games in LA despite several barriers that could prevent it from happening.
“IMMAF is certainly pushing for it and they’re trying to put all of the correct structures in place. I know Kerrith Brown very well, he’s a lovely guy and talks a good game, so they’re certainly trying to do it.
“I think all that people can do in a sport is to look at what the specifications are for having your sport included in the Olympic games and fulfil all those specifications. So I think if you’ve got a big sport and that it is popular and a lot of people are doing it, then I think you’ve got a good chance of doing it.
“The difficulty is of course that we’re a combat sport and the prevailing world wisdom is a bit to the left I would say in that people are not keen on combat sports in the UK.
“But I think there’s a good chance of it being included. I don’t see why it shouldn’t be. Of course, the UFC would want it included in the Olympic games, wouldn’t they? The Olympics are also about money. If there’s money in it, it’ll be in.”
UKMMAF have recently recruited amateur fighter Joanne Doyle as Team England’s head women’s coach and also have a partnership in place with Liverpool University to carry out athlete testing.
Miller, who was Suffolk first ever BJJ black belt, is excited for what is to come in amateur UK MMA and is hoping he can leave a lasting impression on the sport.
“We’ve got some very exciting stuff coming on, we’re really taking it a stage further. It would be great to see the development of the UK team.
“My aim is that I want to be standing at the Olympics in 10 years’ time with a UK team winning. With us getting most points and people getting Olympic medals, then those young people going away being able to say – I was Olympic champion. That would be a fabulous legacy to leave for someone like me.”