Ross Miller Redefines Fighting and Politics

Ross Miller celebrates his victory in a professional mixed martial arts bout in August 2012.

When alumnus Ross Miller, Nevada’s elected secretary of state, wants time away from the slings and arrows of the political world, he turns to the jabs and kicks of mixed martial arts. He earned his dual J.D. and M.B.A. degree from Loyola Law School in 2002, and was the nation’s youngest secretary of state when first elected in 2006. Miller was interviewed by John Kissell about the two worlds he does battle in.

How did you get interested in mixed martial arts?
About five years ago, I was at the gym sitting on an elliptical exercise machine and I was just bored to tears. I saw some guys training in mixed martial arts, and I had always been a boxing fan, so thought I’d give it a try. I walked in the next day, tried a workout and absolutely fell in love with the sport.

With your state responsibilities, is it difficult for you to make time to train?
Any working professional can relate to the fact that it’s always difficult to find time to exercise. I have tried to prioritize that. I try to train even when I’m tired, even just a few times a week.

Does your involvement in a sport that seems rather fierce give you any perspective on competitive party politics?
Politics is definitely a dirtier game. I’ve had quite a handful more of low blows in the political world than I ever have had inside the cage.

Given the differences between the mixed martial arts and political worlds, have you thought that your political career might hurt your reputation among martial arts fighters? Or vice versa?
You might guess that, at some point, I’d have a run-in with someone who held a political grudge against me or was of a different political persuasion, but honestly I haven’t found that at all. With regard to mixed martial arts affecting my political career, of course I was sensitive to the fact that the true nature of the sport isn’t fully appreciated by all. There is the potential for some people to look at the fact that if you train at this sport, you’re a violent person. That’s not what draws me to the sport at all. It is a mental challenge and also physically demanding; those two dynamics drive me to compete.

Have you appeared before a news conference with a split lip or shiner?
Unfortunately, that comes with the territory. I’ve grown accustomed to the occasional black eye or bloody lip in the Nevada capital.

What’s been your proudest achievement as secretary of state?
Nevada’s been a battleground state for the three elections I’ve overseen. We have a great record in that regard with the highest turnouts the state has ever seen, but also being largely free of the irregularities that have crept up in other states.

Do you know in which direction you’ll head after you’re termed out in 2014: politics or martial arts fighting?
I’m putting an exploratory committee together and seriously looking at the attorney general race in 2014. As a former criminal prosecutor, it’s always been a spot that’s appealed to me.

You had one professional fight, and then retired; what’s the story behind that?
It was a bucket list item of mine to compete in the octagon once. Being an elected official, it likely isn’t the type of thing you could get away politically with doing a second time. People would understandably question whether or not you’re a violent person or whether you were taking seriously the job that they entrusted you with.

Did you win?
I did win, by a knockout in the second round.

(Photo by Marcello Rostagni Photography)


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