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December 15, 2018

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Black eyes at the Capitol: Secretary of State Ross Miller wins MMA fight

Ross Miller's MMA fight

Marcello Rostagni / WFC

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller had his first official MMA competition against Jamal Williams winning in the 2nd round after delivering a body kick and a hard right Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012.

Ross Miller's MMA fight

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller (left)  had his first official MMA competition against Jamal Williams (right) winning in the 2nd round after delivering a body kick and a hard right Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Some politicians don’t want to risk getting their hair mussed, much less shatter a cheekbone or break a nose.

But Secretary of State Ross Miller had his first — and only, he said — mixed martial arts bout Saturday, defeating his opponent 30 seconds into the second round.

“Competing in mixed martial arts was on my bucket list,” he said, sitting in the Capitol with a few scrapes on his forehead and a slightly black left eye. “It’s something I wanted to do for myself. It’s part of my personal journey.”

Miller, a 36-year-old Democrat, is serving his second term as the state’s top election officer. He has been sparring since 2008, has a newspaper clip of his MMA training hanging on his walls and has shown up to state meetings sporting a big shiner.

Miller, the son of former Gov. Bob Miller, entered the cage Saturday night to a remix of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son.” In keeping with his role as a politician, he wore white shorts with a U.S. flag motif.

His opponent, Jamal Williams, 32, was looking for his first win in his second fight.

Miller said he came out too tense — he didn’t attempt a kick in the first two-minute round and didn't throw enough punches.

MMA fighter Rick “The Holy Terror” Reeves, who was in his corner, told him to relax and breathe. The corner, which included the Reno chief of police, Steve Pitts (a jujitsu black belt), was nervous.

“You’re scaring the hell out of us,” Reeves told Miller midbout.

In the second round, Miller connected on a couple of punches and caught Williams with a kick to the body and then a right hand to his jaw. Williams crumpled, and Miller began to “ground and pound,” leaping on his opponent and punching him. The ref stopped the fight, and Miller won by technical knockout.

“I caught him with a lucky punch,” Miller said.

Miller, 6 feet 4 inches, who weighed in at 203 pounds, said his first two opponents dropped out for reasons that were unclear. Williams came into the fight with only a few days to train.

Miller began training in MMA in 2008 after watching sparring while he was “on the boring elliptical” at a Reno gym.

He said he had agreed with his wife, Lesley, with whom he has three children, that this would be his only fight.

“She was supportive, once,” he said.

Besides, his diet for the past two months consisted mostly of a cup of brown rice and 6 ounces of cod four times a day.

“It stunk up the house,” he said. “She said it was miserable.”

Bob Miller, in an interview from Las Vegas, said he wasn’t aware of the fight beforehand.

“In any case, he did it in a low-profile manner,” Bob Miller said. “The fact he has retired is sensible.”

Ross Miller’s campaign consultant, Jim Ferrence, flew up from Las Vegas for the fight.

“I was much more nervous Saturday night than either of his election nights,” he said. “I’m just happy he’s able to retire undefeated.”

As for Miller's politician appearance? Ferrence said he bought him full-face headgear, which he has never used.

After the fight, the announcer revealed Miller’s day job to the crowd, according to a video.

“Everybody has probably wanted to punch the secretary of state in the face at one point in their life,” the announcer said before declaring him “the best-looking and most-in-shape secretary of state I’ve ever seen.”

Miller used the opportunity to encourage the crowd to participate in the upcoming election and register to vote; people now can do it online, he said.

“Get out and vote,” Miller said. “Nov. 6 election. Make sure you cast your ballot.”

The audience reaction?

“You could hear crickets chirping,” Ferrence said.

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