LAS VEGAS -- Things are going to look and feel a lot different for Jason Miller on Saturday night.
In a small theater like the Pearl at the Palms, Miller will have about 14 feet of serviceable space to attempt one of his famous walkouts in his return to the UFC. As the UFC curtails accompanying girls and pyrotechnics, his walkout looks doomed from the start. Since it’s a Spike show -- the final of its kind before the UFC takes its services elsewhere -- Miller might not even have a live camera on him when he does it. For a guy who just won “Ring Entrance of the Year” at the MMA Awards, he is coping with all of this best that can be expected. These are small prices to pay.
As for his forever in the making fight with Michael Bisping, his antagonist for the last several months on "The Ultimate Fighter," it’ll be only the third time a non-title main event is slated for five rounds.
So much has changed or is changing or is about to change in the promotion that he returns to, that “Mayhem” can’t help but feel right at home. He is used to flux. That’s where he’s been for the last six-and-a-half years through appearances with HDNet Fights, Dream, the WEC and Strikeforce (among others).
“I can’t point to one single similarity, because it’s such a vastly different time,” he says of the difference this time through from 2005, when he fought his one and only UFC bout, versus Georges St. Pierre. “At that time, I was like, whatever, I’m fighting some French guy. I didn’t care. I was like, he’s handsome, I’m going to knock his face off.
“But it was a different time in my life, too. When I fought Georges, I was a kid not knowing what to do. I didn’t understand life at all. I didn’t understand what I was doing. I was trying to make 170 pounds. It was, all-around, a difficult time for me. Nowadays, I feel like I’ve grown up a lot. I got to go experience the whole world. I’ve got to see Brazil and Japan and all types of locales and meet different people. I grew up. And now grown up Mayhem gets to fight.”
This version of Miller is a celebrity for reasons not entirely to do with fighting. In fact, plenty of people know him better from his “Bully Beatdown” show on MTV. He’s charismatic enough to say he can smash two Jason Statham's on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" and come off as a lovable loon. For the last couple of months he was the coach on "the Ultimate Fighter," where he engaged in the usual hijinks and pranks with the ever-inflammatory Bisping, doing his lunatic eyebrow spike at each available chance.
If this is the grown up Miller we’re seeing at 30 years old, you can guess at what he was like in his bygone younger days.
And yet, no matter how mischievious he gets, Miller rarely comes across as the heel in the situation. Remember the Nashville brawl, the one he incited by rather enforcedly requesting a rematch with Jake Shields, prompting the Diaz brothers, Nick and Nate, to get all up in his mug? Hey, he was just asking for a rematch, and things escalated. If anything, his timing could have been better.
In other words, Miller is a one-of-a-kind, and it’s been a crazy jaunt back “home” to the UFC, one that Miller happily took his detours to arrive at.
“For all those crazy twists and turns, I don’t know about phase two; this might be phase three or four,” he says. “I don’t know what phase this is this time.
“But I wouldn’t change a thing. Sure, maybe I could have made more money somehow. Maybe I could have changed Coke to Pepsi, maybe I could have found my car keys. But, it doesn’t matter. I’m really happy with the twists and turns it’s taken.”
For those who have followed his itinerant career through the various promotions, you know that his style is an aggressive one. Miller doesn’t let his opponents get comfortable. He likes to be right in their face the whole fight. He’s been like that against Ronaldo Souza, against Jake Shields, and against Tim Kennedy. He plans to come right at Bisping, too, whom he says is an overrated kickboxer who too often resorts to trying to outpoint opponents.
“I don’t play that game. I come forward, I come forward, I come forward,” he says. “I go for a finish. There’s no way he’s going to outpoint me. And he can’t TKO me, because he doesn’t punch hard enough. I’m just going to keep my hands up and keep moving forward. I’m not going to let him play that point game. It’s silly. I’m too much of a veteran for that, and I’m too aggressive. He can’t play that game for five rounds.”
And after six weeks of hostile back-and-forth bantering with Bisping, whom he says there’s genuine animosity toward, will the grudge outlast the rounds? Eh, Miller’s a sportsman. He predicts that stuff (probably) ends after Saturday night.
“I think we can squash it after the fight,” he says. “I would hope so. He lives really close to me. I don’t want him burning my house down.”