If you think you were the only one jumping off the couch during UFC 139’s epic battle between Dan Henderson and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua earlier this month, think again. Middleweight Jason “Mayhem” Miller was right there with you.
“That fired me up,” said Miller. “I feel like that should be required viewing for every mixed martial artist. That Wanderlei (Silva)-Cung Le fight and Henderson-Shogun fight, those guys just put it all out there. It was a battle of willpower and technique, and those guys were just going for it a hundred percent. Every mixed martial artist needs to look into that and see what it really, really takes to do this sport. Henderson and Shogun, those guys had their afterparties at the hospital. You have to be willing to give everything in there, and both of those guys definitely did.”
That’s the difference between professional fighters and us civilians. While you could appreciate what Henderson and Rua did over 25 minutes in San Jose, you would probably jump under the covers if asked to do it yourself. But Miller, who will be the next fighter who could go 25 minutes in the Octagon when he faces Michael Bisping in the main event of this Saturday’s Ultimate Fighter 14 finale in Las Vegas, this is exactly what he signed up for.
“If you have the right mentality to go into the Octagon, you should have the mentality to never quit and to leave it all in the cage,” he said. “You can’t shy away when the going gets tough.”
Miller has gone the championship distance before, losing a Strikeforce middleweight title fight to then-champion Jake Shields in 2009, and despite the fact that cardio is one of Bisping’s strong suits, Miller believes his edge – a mental one – will serve him well this weekend.
“I know mentally it’s one of those things that you can just push through and do it, and since I’ve been there before and I have a better feeling of what that’s like, I definitely think it will give me an edge,” he said. “But I really don’t plan on taking advantage of those five rounds. I’m trying to finish him in the first.”
So we won’t be seeing Hendo-Shogun II then?
“I don’t think Bisping’s good enough to do that,” said Miller of his coaching rival on TUF 14. “I think he’s a good all-around fighter, but he doesn’t stand out in one place in particular and that’s where me and him differ. I have strong punches and I have a very good grappling game, and eventually he’s going to falter and I’ll be there to take advantage of it.”
Miller’s confidence is evident leading up to his much-anticipated meeting with “The Count,” but what is also present is a focus that he admitted in a recent blog post on his website, MayhemMiller.com, wasn’t always there.
“It has recently occurred to me, that in the entirety of my career, I have never been 100% focused in on a fight,” he wrote. “I mean, at the time I may have believed that I was totally focused, but in retrospect it occurs to me that I had certain extenuating circumstances that were pulling me in one direction or another, and distracting me from the task at hand.”
Asked about this post, Miller elaborated.
“I always thought I was (focused), but in retrospect I was kinda just goofin’ off a little bit too much and not really focusing. I was like the cool kid at school who would show up with no books and just wing it. And I did that with a lot of my career, but finally I have the right people around me and I’m doing it correctly. It was my own self realizing that I need to seize these opportunities in the best way possible and alleviating those childish things that would distract me when I was younger.”
Truth be told, the 30-year old Miller never shied away from the side of him that could best be described as “zany.” But it worked for him. Despite not being in the UFC for the exception of one 2005 decision loss to future welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, Miller used his fights and his personality to build himself into a star like few have, and his wild antics even earned him a hosting gig on MTV’s ‘Bully Beatdown.’
So when he was chosen to coach on TUF 14 against Bisping, to many newer fans, Miller wasn’t a top level fighter returning to the UFC; he was the ‘Bully Beatdown’ guy.
“If somebody only watches ‘Bully Beatdown’ and sees that aspect of my personality, which is the comedian side of me, they’re not gonna realize that there are a lot of layers there,” he said. “The reason I got the ‘Bully Beatdown’ job is because I’m a funny guy, and part of my humor came from how hard you have to work to do mixed martial arts. I started being the funny guy to keep morale up in a training room that so much pain is associated with. So I keep spirits light by being the funny guy and it worked out that I got a job where I could use that creative side of myself.”
And after watching him lead his fighters on the show into battle over the course of the season, it was clear that there was more to him than advertised.
“I knew that people were gonna get to see what I really do and what I’ve really done and what I’m good at on The Ultimate Fighter, and that’s training and fighting,” he said. “I’ve been doing this since I was like 17 years old, and it’s the thing that I know the best. So I knew that people were gonna be in for a surprise when I signed up for The Ultimate Fighter. And that was fine with me. I didn’t change anything or have to play anything up for the cameras. I just went in, they gave me the job, and I tried to do my job as best as possible.”
As a bonus, the show marked his return to the organization for the first time since the St-Pierre bout more than six years ago, a period that saw him go 12-3 with 1 NC, and that included wins over Robbie Lawler, Tim Kennedy, Hiromitsu Miura, and Kazushi Sakuraba, with his only losses coming against Shields, “Jacare” Souza, and Frank Trigg.
“I knew it was a matter of time,” said Miller of ending up back in the UFC. “I’m one of the rare exceptions of mixed martial arts that have gone outside of UFC and become popular. I did my own thing and kinda built myself, and I knew that I would be back working with the biggest and best promotion in the world eventually; it was a timing thing and suddenly the timing worked out just fine.”
If Miller’s focused, confident, and geared up for battle, he couldn’t be more on point when it comes to timing, and having Bisping as a foil for a little bout of trash talking that has been going on since TUF14 was announced can’t hurt. But California’s Miller admits that he really doesn’t need that kind of fuel to get up for the fight.
“I didn’t need any extra motivation,” he said. “But this guy’s attitude is so funny, and I can never get away from it. He’s a bully, and if you stand up to the bully, he’s gonna break. And we saw that throughout the entire season. He would pick on other guys, and then when I got in his face, he would kinda shy away. And once we meet in the cage, there’s not gonna be anywhere for him to run. He can’t avoid fighting me.”
And beating Bisping is far from the be all, end all for Miller. He’s a well-traveled veteran who has seen it all in the fight game over the years. Now that he’s found a home in the UFC, he has only one final goal in the sport.
“My goal is to get a belt,” he said. “That’s why I’m in here. And I know I can beat (UFC middleweight champion) Anderson Silva; I just need to get in front of him. You put me in front of him, I’m the champion, and I say that with one hundred percent conviction. I know that styles make fights and I know I can get him on the floor and submit him. I definitely can do it, so I just need to get that chance, and whoever stands in front of me is gonna fall. That’s all that I’m thinking about at this point in my life. I have a title run in me that needs to come out, and I know I can walk out of the cage with the belt around my waist.”
That’s pretty serious talk from the ‘Bully Beatdown guy,’ and maybe, just maybe, it will be all business from here on out for “Mayhem” Miller.
“As far as my fighting career is concerned, that (winning a title) is the reason I go to the gym,” he said. “And I think for many years, that wasn’t the reason. Maybe it was because it seemed so far away that I didn’t have the same motivation. My motivation before was to just put on exciting fights. That was all I wanted to do – entertain everybody. Now I have a renewed interest in the fight game because I know that the way the middleweight division shakes out, I can get a belt. So I’m gonna do it.”
"Mayhem" Miller - One Bully Left
"I have a title run in me that needs to come out, and I know I can walk out of the cage with the belt around my waist." - Jason "Mayhem" Miller