When your chosen profession is a career in mixed martial arts, adversity is commonplace. The rigors of training and challenges the opposition presents inside the cage are aspects of the sport a fighter can make adjustments to overcome.
But there are some cases where the hardships that arise go beyond anything that can be prepared for, and wind up testing the very fabric of their beings.
After nearly a decade in the sport, there aren't many things in the realm of confrontation Dan Miller hasn't faced. The gritty New Jersey native has competed on the biggest stages in MMA, scrapping it out with some of the best fighters in his weight class in the process.
Over the course of his career, the 31-year-old has garnered a reputation for being the breed of fighter who isn't afraid to lay it on the line, consistently giving all he has with every showing. A blue-collar work ethic and a love for the fight makes Miller a threat every time he steps into the cage, and win or lose, he is going to find out what the opposition is made of. That being said, Miller recently faced a challenge that took him to the wire and threatened to turn his world upside down.
In early 2010, Miller and his wife welcomed their son Daniel James Miller into the world. Daniel Jr. was born with a genetic kidney disorder (polycystic kidney disease) that required his admittance into intensive care shortly after his birth. The AMA-trained fighter did his best to balance family and career, but when his son's condition worsened in late 2011, Miller stepped away from the cage without hesitation.
In September of last year, Daniel Jr. underwent a successful kidney transplant, and the rough waters Miller had been traveling for two years finally appeared to be ceasing. Another positive in the equation came three months earlier, when the elder of the Miller brothers made a successful return to the Octagon in his welterweight debut against Ricardo Funch at UFC on FX 4.
The victory was an emotional moment for the veteran fighter, as the wheels of his career returned to the track, and Miller brought a two-fight skid to a halt in front of a home state crowd in New Jersey.
"Getting that win was a great feeling," Miller told Bleacher Report. "I was relieved to get the win and relieved to make the weight. I was able to keep the pace up and I felt strong. I was a little tired but it could have been the pace or the nerves. That was my first win at 170-pounds and it was a good feeling to get back on the winning track.
"With everything that we went through that year, it was just an emotional experience and felt really good to get my hand raised."
With everything getting back to normal on all fronts, Miller set about preparing for the next challenge of his career. He will face highly-touted prospect Jordan Mein next weekend at UFC 158 in Montreal. The talented young Canadian has won eight of his last nine outings and garnered acclaim for the skills he has displayed at just 23 years of age.
While the "Young Gun's" well-rounded attack presents some interesting problems to solve, the quieting of chaos in Miller's life has brought of sense of calm that past training camps had been missing.
"I'm more at ease now," Miller said. "With training and everything that goes fighting, what my son was going through was always in the back of my head. But seeing him do so well, I can now concentrate on other things and do what I need to do in the gym. Ever since the transplant he has been doing excellent, and him being home makes it a lot easier.
"Mein is a tough kid. He has a lot of experience and a lot of fights. He is well-rounded and I'm very excited to fight him. I think it's going to be a tough fight and I'm looking forward to getting in there and mixing it up with him. It's going to be a good fight at a face pace and I think we are going to get after each other right away.
"I go into every fight wanting to get the finish," Miller added. "I don't ever want to be known as a guy who goes in there to fight for a decision; I want to go in there and dominate. I try to do everything possible to accomplish that goal. Sometimes it doesn't pay off for me, but it's the way I've always fought.
"Even when I was wrestling I always went out to pin. I never went out to just win the match. I wanted to get the pin and be dominant. It's just the way Jim and I were brought up and it's just the way we are. I don't go into every fight thinking about it. Always looking for the finish is the way I fight.
"Some guys are happy to get the win and that is all they care about. I understand that winning is everything, but to me personally, it is really exciting to finish somebody. That's when I get pumped. I don't get pumped up when I win a decision. It just doesn't hit me the same way. That is what fuels me--finishing someone. I walk out of the ring and I want to get right back in immediately."
The welterweight tilt between Miller and Mein takes place on a card that has become a showcase for the top 170-pound fighters on the UFC roster. While the pay-per-view portion of the card is stacked with the a collection of fighters battling to clear up the welterweight title picture, the rest of the card features several other fighters competing in the 170-pound weight class.
Miller believes this unique lineup presents the perfect opportunity to gain some traction in the division.
"It is definitely a chance for me to make a statement," Miller said. "UFC 158 is a big welterweight card and there are a lot of guys who are potential opponents on the card as well. You go in there and get a good quality win and it kind of sets you up for a big fight next time around. It's also good because there will be a lot of guys coming off the card on the same schedule. We will all have fought in March and we can all match-up down the road when everybody is ready. I think it's a good card and I really want to make a statement in Montreal."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.