Dan Miller has already fought through the death of one child. | Photo: Sherdog.com
However, Miller’s support system had its concerns about his continuing to fight. His brother, UFC lightweight contender Jim Miller, Miller’s parents and Constantino all sat together and made sure he was fit to continue. One has to understand Miller’s internal team dynamic: it is one big grounded family.
There is younger brother Jim, who Miller introduced to MMA and is more like a twin. There is Constantino, who is more like a brother than a trainer or manager. There are his parents, including his father, Mike, from whom Miller derives his great vigor. He sees the MMA community as an extended family, including guys like training partner Charlie Brenneman, another man who has become more like a brother.
Then there is his wife, Kristin, who Miller places on a pedestal all by herself. With little Danny and their daughter, Katie, Kristin has been Miller’s constant heart and soul. When little Danny was 6 months old, the real scare came. He became ill, and his kidneys shut down completely. He was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Little Danny did not move for a month-and-a-half; he barely moved his eyes. While all of this transpired, Miller was training to fight Bisping at UFC 114 on May 29, 2010. He absorbed the anguish internally so his family did not have to. It pounded him with anvil-like thuds, as did the questions.
“Why him? Why him? We got to experience Danny as a baby,” Miller recalls thinking. “It wasn’t fair what he went through. I can take the pain; it’s OK. I am in the pain business. I didn’t want to see Danny go through that. I was told a few times that Danny didn’t have a chance to live. I wasn’t about to watch one of my children die again. There were a lot of sleepless nights.
“I spent a lot of time training, driving back and forth from Philly,” he adds. “My poor wife, Kristin, she stayed there the whole time by Danny’s side. I had to train, and she had to deal with a lot of stuff by herself. She’s a very, very strong person, stronger than me. Thank God I have her.”
Little Danny is scheduled to undergo a kidney transplant on Jan. 25. He has become a blessing to everyone who sees him: a jolly, happy, smiling little boy. Miller, with help from Constantino and the MMA community, held a successful fundraiser on Dec. 3 for the Daniel James Miller Foundation that helped meet the nearly $100,000 in medical costs.
Miller and his wife have navigated through this turbulent octagon of life. He still continues to train, and Kristin has maintained her position as an elementary special education teacher. Little Danny undergoes kidney dialysis every night, though it changes weekly. Last summer, it extended to as long as 17 hours daily. Hooking up little Danny has become part of Miller’s life. He still needs 16 hours of home nursing and remains connected to a feeding tube.
Through it all, the same responses come from everyone around the UFC middleweight:
• “Dan doesn’t give himself enough credit,” Kristin says. “We enjoy each and every minute with the kids and love being there for them. We’ve learned to treasure every moment, but it is amazing that Dan even gets in there when he’s had a fight planned. He’s never wanted to pull out. He wants to do his best, and I give him a ton of credit for doing that. He has to give a full commitment. He loves his job, but juggling all of this is hard on him. You just won’t hear him say that.”
• “I don’t know if I could go through what he’s gone through,” Brenneman says. “Dan doesn’t really talk about it. He looks at it as, ‘This is my situation, and I’m dealing with it and dealing with it the best way I can.’ It is a panacea for him every time he walks into the gym or the MMA world. He gets to step into a different place for a little while. He presses forward, and it’s extremely hard to do, especially living the lifestyle that he lives. We do not live normal lifestyles. If there is anyone in the world that can handle it and handle it well, Dan is that guy.”
• “I’ve always known Dan can show any man on the planet how to be a better man,” says his brother, Jim. “There’s nothing he does that makes me prouder than how he lives and deals with adversity every day. I still don’t know how Dan does it. He carries everything on broad shoulders and never complains about anything. He’s had to step into the Octagon with things going on his personal life that I don’t know if I could do. He’s doing what he loves to do without excuses and he handles it very well.”
• “I don’t know if I could go through what Dan has,” Constantino said. “I look at what he does, and I still wonder how he does it.”
Little Danny’s situation has tested Miller’s resolve.
“I really don’t know what gets me through it. I have great support from my family, my wife, the people around me,” Miller says, “but, really, I don’t know. I don’t see myself as anything special. There are other people that are dealing with things as bad, if not worse, than I am. I don’t think I’m that tough. My son, he’s tough. I go to Children’s Hospital every week in Morristown, [N.J.]. These kids go through hell, and they’re happy and laughing. They’re playing. It’s amazing. Danny, by far, is the toughest little kid that I know. He can take a lot more than I can. He’s one tough kid.”