MMA: Jason Miller

'Mayhem' officially toeing the deep end

October, 9, 2012
10/09/12
1:13
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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Jason MillerAl Powers for ESPN.comStill causing mayhem: Jason Miller's latest barbs have been targeted at UFC president Dana White.
If you go in for "excruciating," then you are a ripe candidate for Jason Miller’s fan club. Not talking about the Jason Miller who played Father Karras in 1973 film “The Exorcist,” though at this point there would appear to be parallels in areas dealing in fiction and possession.

We’re talking about the host of “Bully Beatdown” -- the uber-popular (and perhaps former) MMA fighter.

What is going on with “Mayhem?” First he’s caught naked in a church with a spent fire extinguisher, then he’s tweeting Ronda Rousey strange bits of indecipherable brain patter. He’s never been what you might consider average -- the nickname should tip you off -- but now, after appearing in the Kevin James MMA movie “Here Comes the Boom,” he’s a method actor gone berserk.

Just so we’re clear -- he’s method acting after the role. He’s still in character, presumably to help sell the movie. Now there’s promoting a movie ... and there’s what Miller is doing. But exactly what is it that he’s doing? Does he even know?

Miller made an in-studio appearance on Ariel Helwani’s “MMA Hour” on Monday in New York, and showed up as “Lucky” Patrick Murphy, a caricaturized ruffian from Dorchester, Mass. From the word go, the interview was awkward. Helwani wanted true life. He got bad fiction, instead. There was no middle, yet there were beads of sweat.

Helwani played along with the ruse, but couldn’t drag the real Miller out. “Mayhem’s in the woods,” he was told time and again. He was also told to “f--- off” on occasion. That Helwani wouldn’t spend an hour of mortifying role-playing with Miller made him angry. After crawling on the furniture and shouting, he eventually stormed out. He even swiped the host’s “Volkmann for President” shirt for good measure, which has its own awkward narrative.

Funny as in Andy Kaufman funny?

Nope. It was 14 minutes that felt like an hour. It was 14 minutes of cringe. It was 14 minutes of “Wow, I hope Miller’s OK.”

It’s this last thing that makes it all the more unfunny.

Is Miller OK? At this point, you do have to wonder. After being cut from the UFC -- where, you’ll recall, he gave C.B. Dollaway a noogie before losing a “do or die” decision -- Miller has been out there a little further than usual. There’s his Twitter account with nearly 228,000 followers, which has become an erratic log of disconnect. And then there was the arrest for the Orange County church break-in. With a platform to explain things, or at least downplay the incident and make light of it, Miller strayed into left field.

He came as “Lucky” Patrick, a character from the movie, which didn’t exactly sell anybody on the idea of seeing it. He was in and out of accent. He was in and out of moods. He was in and out of the segment. By acting standards, Miller is a good fighter.

Was it just “Mayhem’s” brand of hokum? Maybe. If it is, might be time for a new shtick. Nobody hams it up quite like “Mayhem,” who in the fight game was known as much for his big choreographed walkouts as he was for his performances.

If Miller was just having a laugh, he was doing it alone. Can’t imagine the producers of the film are laughing along with him. An impenetrable guise? Helwani might as well have been interviewing the lady in the Hello Kitty costume down at Times Square.

But if it’s something other than misfired silliness, you have to be a little concerned for “Mayhem.” The incidents are stacking up around him, and everybody’s seeing it. Everyone but Miller, who traveled from California to New York to tell us he’s looking at things through the eyes of somebody else. Talk about uncomfortable.

Bisping in unusual terrain as underdog

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
2:19
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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Michael BispingEd Mulholland for ESPN.comWill Michael Bisping's Octagon experience kick into high gear come fight time?
It’s been a long while since Michael Bisping was an underdog heading into a fight. In fact, the last time was back in 2009 when he fought Dan Henderson at UFC 100. On that occasion, with all the tensions of the “Ultimate Fighter 9” still playing in the shallows of public perception, the Brit showed up as a 2-to-1 dog. And even then there were a lot of people that thought Vegas was sleeping on Bisping a little bit. (By the time Henderson’s right hand sent Bisping into the twitches, the line was long forgotten).

Since then the “Count” has been the “Bully” in Joe Silva’s matchmaking. Jason Miller, Jorge Rivera, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Dan Miller and Denis Kang were all long shots to beat Bisping. Ditto Wanderlei Silva, who managed to spring the upset. For the last three years, Bisping has grown used to being the mark, not the marksman. He’s been batting down the grabbing hands of opportunists on his climb, rather than clutching at the ankles of the guys above him.

That changes in Chicago. Against Chael Sonnen -- who fell to Bisping when Mark Munoz had to pull out of his scheduled fight with bone spurs in his elbow -- he is a 4-to-1 underdog.

This is unusual terrain for Bisping. And it’s an incredible line for a guy who has won four in a row (finishing his last two). In fact, it’s the kind of line that says two things: 1) For the last three years Bisping has had a cushy schedule for a guy who considers himself “title ready,” and B) we now view Sonnen as a tyrant. In the time it’s taken Bisping to make his way up the rungs enough for a bigger challenge, Sonnen has transformed from a journeyman to a contender, from an afterthought to a showman, and from cusp prelimer to PPV headliner. He contradicts himself ruthlessly in the media, but he keeps beating guys (coldly, methodically) and came close to cashing in Silva, too. The Sonnen case is one for 18th century exorcists.

Or maybe Malcolm Gladwell.

But Bisping has always been Bisping. And to become something other than Bisping he’ll need to beat Sonnen, who also happens to be the guy he can take his cues from. Sonnen stood as a lofty underdog against Yushin Okami at UFC 104 and Nate Marquardt at UFC 109. Heading into that stretch he scored a workman-like decision over Dan Miller, and before then had lost to Demian Maia (triangle choke). So what did he do? The only thing he could. He laid the pestle down on top-ranked Okami in a fight many thought he didn’t deserve, then ransacked Marquardt for three straight rounds to the point that he suddenly looked like a real impediment for Anderson Silva.

Out of nowhere, Sonnen beat two top-end guys who were trying their damndest to get back to Silva. This time it’s Sonnen who is trying to get back to Silva (even if he says otherwise), and it’s Bisping’s chance to spoil that return trip. In other words, here’s Bisping’s chance to become Sonnen. Win it, and he’ll assuredly be an underdog in his next fight, too. That’s the goal -- Sao Paulo against longer odds still.

Yet lose, and it could be another three years before Bisping’s an underdog again, and that’s no kind of consolation.

Miller deserves one more shot in the UFC

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
2:41
PM ET
Dundas By Chad Dundas
ESPN.com
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It took all of about seven minutes for the "Mayhem" to drain out of Jason Miller at “The Ultimate Fighter” season 14 finale.

In a bout scheduled for 25 minutes, that wasn’t even close to long enough. Now, two days removed from his hard-to-watch, third-round TKO loss to Michael Bisping on Saturday, we’re still waiting for an official verdict on whether Miller’s long-awaited UFC comeback will end after just one fight.

As impossible as it is to imagine that it would, UFC President Dana White doesn’t sound overly optimistic about his chances.

“I don’t know; we’ll see,” White told Heavy.com, when asked if he’d give Miller another fight. “He didn't have a good performance against Georges St. Pierre [at UFC 52] and he definitely didn't have a good performance against Michael Bisping."

Point taken. Yet it would be pretty harsh if, after a six-year absence, the UFC chose to judge Miller solely on the basis of a 2005 fight against St. Pierre and his Octagon return versus Bisping. After all, the roster is littered with guys who’ve been undone by GSP and UFC debuts (of which Miller now essentially has two) are notoriously difficult.

Not to let him off the hook for this woeful performance, but the "Mayhem" we saw in the cage on Saturday seemed a different guy than the one we'd come to expect after a 10-year, 31-fight career. A contender of his caliber deserves one more chance to prove he belongs. If he doesn’t get it, that’ll be a shame.
[+] EnlargeMiller
Al Powers for ESPN.comJason Miller, left, was holding his own with Michael Bisping -- until the second round rolled along.

If Miller gets cut now, we might never know why he wasn’t ready to go two full rounds (let alone five) at Bisping’s pace on Saturday. Was it an aberration, brought on by ring rust, an adrenaline dump or the dreaded "Octagon jitters"? Is it indicative of some larger problem in his training or, worse yet, his overall ability? Or is Bisping really just that good?

It seems worth it to get another look at Miller in order to find out.

Before the bottom dropped out on him midway through the second, things weren't going so bad for Miller. His spastic offense caught Bisping off guard in the early going and Miller scored with kicks and looping punches. He sprinted into the teeth of Bisping’s attack, basically daring the Brit to knock him out, and even took him down a minute, 45 seconds into the fight. While he never had Bisping in any serious trouble, he controlled the bulk of the opening round from something approaching the mount and should've gotten the nod on most scorecards.

That momentum may have been fleeting, and the endgame stages some of the ugliest in recent memory, but the first round -- while wild and a little sloppy -- showed that Miller can still compete. After spending the last few years making a cottage industry out of just being himself, this loss doesn’t totally undo him as a popular and marketable fighter, either. He remains a singular figure in the sport and could still be quality asset for the UFC, so long as he can right the ship in the near future.

His first fight back in the Octagon left us with unexpected questions. Hopefully, the company lets Miller stick around long enough for us to get some answers.
Michael Bisping declared "I'm one of the best in the world" after his annihilation of Jason Miller at the TUF 14 finale, and then revealed his next opponent will not be anybody that he has previously fought. More »

Bisping wins big, but over an awful Miller

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
1:31
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- Following the conclusion of Saturday’s middleweight fight between Jason Miller and Michael Bisping at "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 14 finale, UFC president Dana White tweeted it was the most one-sided fight in the promotion’s history.

It probably wasn’t quite that. It was, well ... something.

In time, the TKO win Bisping (22-3) claimed midway through the third round will be viewed as nothing more than a positive result. It extends his current win streak to four and moves him one step closer to a middleweight title shot in 2012.

In the immediate future, however, it will be classified as one of two things: Either a dominant performance by a man ready to fight for the UFC title or an uninspired one, over an opponent who mysteriously gassed out before the fight even started.

Which do you see it as?

Miller (23-8), who was fighting in the UFC for the first time since 2005, was visibly exhausted in the second round. He continued to play to the crowd, purposefully dropping his hands during exchanges, but it seemed the biggest effect that had was making it easier for Bisping to finish him.

As Bisping put it, by the time that happened, the fight was already over.

“That’s normally the sign of a man who has nothing left to do,” Bisping said. “He tries to have a bit of bravado, so at least he looks tough while he gets his a-- kicked.”

But as impressive as a knockout win over Miller is -- it’s only happened once before -- it didn’t seem like a perfect week if you’re a No. 1 contender hopeful.

On Friday, Bisping missed making weight on his first attempt. He missed by a mere quarter-pound, which came off after just “10 minutes” on the treadmill, but rumors of a difficult weight cut for the Brit quickly circulated.
[+] EnlargeJason Miller
Al Powers for ESPN.comA quickly winded Jason Miller offered next to nothing against Michael Bisping.

In the fight, he showed evidence of stamina issues himself, despite dominating from the second round on. When asked about both his own and Miller’s cardio, Bisping pointed to the quick pace of the fight.

“That’s nonsense,” Bisping said, on whether he or Miller had cardio issues. “I guarantee you Jason didn’t gas. I guarantee you he could have gone five rounds.

“When someone is landing body shots on you like I was, your cardio gets affected. You take the best runners in the world -- start kicking them, and they’ll get tired.”

Miller, who was transported to the hospital Saturday, tweeted a different opinion.

“Got tired,” Miller tweeted. “Thanks for watching. I’ll be back stronger next time.”

To Bisping’s credit, he certainly did more than a few things right to secure the finish. He overcame an early headbutt from Miller, which left a large welt on his forehead. He defended the majority of takedowns and kept pressure on when it was clear Miller had wilted.

Whether he had difficulty with the weight cut or not, one can’t argue with the result.

“He’s a tough, durable guy,” Bisping said. “But I knew he couldn’t take that pace. I backed up a few times and he didn’t even want to get to his feet. For someone with no punching power, I think seven of my last eight opponents have gone to the hospital."

Before the main event Saturday, the UFC officially announced a middleweight fight between Chael Sonnen (26-11-1) and Mark Munoz (12-2) on Jan. 28, which will determine the next No. 1 contender for champion Anderson Silva.

Is a rare finish over Miller enough to have the UFC second-guess that decision? Well, it depends on how you look at it.

Stakes still foggy for Bisping and Miller

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
2:58
PM ET
Dundas By Chad Dundas
ESPN.com
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Both Michael Bisping and Jason Miller say they’re perfectly content with the circumstances of Saturday night’s “Ultimate Fighter” season 14 finale.

Never mind that they seem to be caught in the middle of the UFC’s divorce from SpikeTV and (perhaps due to the uncertainty surrounding that split) their otherwise pay-per-view quality bout has been relegated to free television and the intimate settings of The Pearl at the Palms. Never mind the fact the fight company canceled the prefight news conference and open workouts this week, appearing satisfied to ride out the end of this marriage in shared silence.

Miller and Bisping are fighters, so they don’t concern themselves much with that stuff. Or at least if they do, they don’t let on.

Likewise, neither guy will cop to being overly concerned with the stakes of their grudge match or where they stand in the middleweight rat race, which has only gotten murkier over the past few days.

Here’s what we think we know at this exact moment: Anderson Silva’s 36-year-old shoulder will likely keep him out until June, at which point the UFC may or may not be planning to showcase its 185-pound champion in a 100,000-seat mega stadium in Sao Paolo, Brazil, against an opponent still to be announced. We’d all previously assumed that TBA would be Chael Sonnen, but with each passing day it appears more and more likely the promotion will stick to its guns about The Rashad Evans Rule and not let Sonnen sit out to wait for his title shot.
[+] EnlargeGeorges St. Pierre & Jason Miller
Josh Hedges/Getty ImagesJason Miller is hoping for a better outing in the Octagon than last time around.

Rumors ran hot and heavy last week that the former Oregon wrestler might face off with Mark Munoz at the UFC’s second live show on FOX, but a few days ago Sonnen went on record saying he believes he’ll get the winner of Bisping versus Miller instead. Naturally, there’s also a decent chance Sonnen is just saying stuff for his own amusement, so his words really leave us no closer to answers than we were before.

Bisping, who has been hovering on the outskirts of contender status for some time, doesn't believe a win over Miller would do much to move him up the ladder. He intimated this week that he sees this fight simply as a chance to get some added cage time, earn a little more money and shut the mouth of a guy it turned out he didn’t particularly like while they filmed a season of reality television together. By that same token, though, a loss to an Octagon newcomer, no matter how accomplished, could be disastrous for his title aspirations.

For Miller -- who returns action for the first time in more than a year -- a second run in the UFC gives him a chance to prove he’s more than just a television personality, that when he’s not dropping one-liners on out-of-shape bullies on MTV2, he has what it takes to compete at MMA’s highest level. A win over Bisping would show he’s been underrated these last few years of globetrotting and sporadic competition, while a loss (especially a bad one) would raise significant questions about his long-term future in the Octagon.

Being so preoccupied by the damage they plan to do to each other, it doesn’t seem like the fighters will care a lick about the long-term until after the fight Saturday night. Until then, they’re happy to leave such big-picture questions to fans and media types.

It’s just that, with no prefight news conference, there isn’t a great place to ask.

Notes and Nuggets on TUF 14 Finale

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
1:20
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- People knew things before we did -- that’s what we suspect we know now. That’s why the fight week buildup to Michael Bisping and Jason Miller -- a fight with vague insinuations toward a high contender spot -- is unique. Unique in a short shrift kind of way for the headliners.

Traditionally leading up to a fight card, there are open workouts to attend, a news conference, a definitive place to be for the weigh-ins and media mixers. For Spike’s final broadcast show, the finale of the 14th season of "The Ultimate Fighter,” it has all the hype of a straight to DVD movie. There are acrimonious underpinnings between the UFC and Spike. Where once it was a powerful relationship full of unified presence, now you have to pay active attention to know what’s going on. The hurtful last words that aren’t being said? “We’ll always have Griffin/Bonnar.” In lieu of a news conference, the UFC held a press junket of sorts inside the Fantasy Tower at the Palms. Dana White was out of town.

Through this whole thing, Michael Bisping is and has been the odd man out. The Briton is used to floodlights surrounding his bouts, large arenas during them, and media blitzes before and after to activate his peeves. That’s only part of it. Bisping is within periscope range of a title shot, and beating Miller won’t likely advance his cause. In fact, it was originally thought that Bisping was fighting well beneath him, back when the UFC was trying to saddle him against Chael Sonnen as the coaches on TUF 14.

“Fighting Jason, I don’t think he gives me the right to fight for a title,” Bisping told ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto earlier this week. “He’s not the name. He’s not the guy to do it.”

Think about that. Bisping took 10 months off between fights to make a crab-like movement toward the title. For exposure? Doubtful. Bisping is a resident TUFer by now. This was his third stint on the show (once as a participant, twice as a coach). Maybe we’re looking at his sentence for the spitting incident that occurred against Jorge Rivera.

Of course, people have warmed to Miller’s chances over the course of the last couple of months, to the point that many wouldn’t even view it as an upset should he pull it off. He returns to the Octagon after nearly seven years, and “return” is a funny word for a guy who has but one cameo appearance in the promotion, back at UFC 52 against Georges St. Pierre. With Miller having fought in Dream and Strikeforce -- to go along with his outsized cult of personality -- this one has an interleague vibe going on that’s hard to get a firm grasp on. How does it play out?

If the week leading up is any indication, quietly.

TUF lessons from El Cucuy

Tony Ferguson (red trunks)and Aaron RileyRoss Dettman for ESPN.comBreaking through: Tony Ferguson is already leaving a mark in the UFC.

Last season’s TUF winner, Tony Ferguson, is on this weekend’s card as well. He won the season as a broadcast welterweight, and before that achievement could even sink in “El Cucuy” cut down to be a lightweight and fought Aaron Riley’s at UFC 135. How did that pan out? Riley was eating from a tube after a brutal left uppercut broke his jaw. For all the talk about TUF no longer producing threatening talent to the established names in the sport, Ferguson looks like a huckleberry.

“If you want your life to change, then don’t get stuck up in all the B.S. that goes along with it, all the people that come around -- just keep doing what you do,” he told Ariel Helwani in response to what advice he’d give future TUF alum. “Keep doing what you were doing just before you got to the Ultimate Fighter" show. Make sure that you’re still giving 150 percent inside the gym everyday, and make sure nothing gets to your head. Why? Because true champions are made that way.”

Doesn’t sound like a guy who is resting on his laurels.

Miller’s Chael moment

Anderson SilvaJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesJason Miller knew what it felt like to be taken down by Chael Sonnen long before Anderson Silva did.

Essentially Jason Miller got his chance to coach on "The Ultimate Fighter" because Chael Sonnen was still suspended when it came time to sign on the dotted line. Miller isn’t Sonnen, but he has had the pleasure of fighting Sonnen back a decade ago on something called “Rumble on the Reservation” in California.

“You mean when he double-legged me through the cage?” Miller told ESPN.com. “I got hurt from that s---, too, because I went through the bottom of the floor. We broke through the cage, and I twisted my ribs because he fell on me so hard. That was crazy. We were fighting on an Indian Reservation. I was selling tickets outside with my hands wrapped. That’s how crazy it was. It was a weird thing.

“So, yeah, we broke right through the floor. Then they tried to fix it for like three minutes, and I was getting angry, because I wanted to get [Sonnen] back for that. So I was standing in the corner going, ‘what the hell.’ And finally the referee was like ... alright, let’s continue, but don’t go over there [pointing to broken floorboards]. Avoid that spot. Fight over there [pointing to safe end]. So we had a weird gentleman’s agreement not to go over there [toward the hole]. It was kind unspoken. It was crazy.”

Miller lost the decision, but gained a piece of lore.
Michael Bisping does not need to champion his causes for a UFC middleweight title shot these days, because the rankings are more-or-less doing it for him. More »

This time around, it's a grown-up Mayhem

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
7:23
AM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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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.”

Munoz: Miller will choke out Bisping

December, 1, 2011
12/01/11
7:58
AM ET
By Ben Blackmore
ESPN.co.uk
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Mark Munoz has predicted Jason Miller will put a spanner in the works for Michael Bisping's middleweight title ambitions when the pair meet on Saturday. More »

Bisping likes his chances to win title in 2012

December, 1, 2011
12/01/11
7:16
AM ET
Okamoto By Brett Okamoto
ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- When you’ve essentially become a “heel” character in the UFC, it can be a very difficult identity to shake -- especially when you’re featured on reality television.

Middleweight contender Michael Bisping knows this as well as anyone. During the past 14 seasons of “The Ultimate Fighter,” we’ve heard fighters and coaches admit that perhaps, maybe, the UFC did some selective editing to spice things up.

In the sixth episode of this season, Bisping pupil Diego Brandao knocked out Steven Siler from Jason Miller’s team with an absolutely vicious-looking combination.

In the aftermath of the knockout, the edited sequence immediately cuts to Bisping celebrating and distributing insults toward Team Miller. A still-disoriented Siler, whose dreams of becoming the “next Ultimate Fighter” have just gone up in flames, stands there, bewildered. It all kind of makes the Brit look, eh ... kind of bad.

Bisping, who has become accustomed to the role of heel, shakes his head when describing the moment.

“Ultimately, everything I said -- I said. It came out of my mouth,” Bisping told ESPN.com. “But some things were definitely taken out of context and I don’t care who that p---ed off. That’s a fact.

“When Steve Siler got knocked out, he was crying his eyes out. I gave him a big hug and said, ‘Listen mate, you’re a fantastic fighter.’ I built him up. After that, I got into some verbal sparring with Miller. So they cut back and forth between the two and it looks like I’m shouting at Siler. That wasn’t the case at all.”

As much as discussion tends to surround his personality, the real storyline behind Bisping (21-3) heading into this weekend’s fight against Miller is a 32-year-old, well rounded mixed martial artist trying to get to Anderson Silva and, more importantly, the UFC middleweight title.

Hate Bisping as much as you want, but there are a few facts that can’t be ignored. He’s proven his talents -- 11-3 in the UFC since 2006 -- and he’s entering what should be his prime years in competition.

One could easily build a case Bisping deserves to fight for the title before both Chael Sonnen and Mark Munoz, two middleweight contenders rumored to be fighting each other in early 2012.

Bisping certainly can make that argument, but he doesn’t allow himself to be absorbed with it. By his assessment, he needs to beat Miller this Saturday. Then he probably needs to win one more.

“Fighting Jason, I don’t think he gives me the right to fight for the title,” Bisping said. “He’s not the name. He’s not the guy to do it.
[+] EnlargeMichael Bisping
Martin McNeil for ESPN.comLeap forward: Michael Bisping can state his case for a middleweight title shot on Saturday.

“That said, the amount of consecutive wins I have makes a case for it. Seems like Mark Munoz gets a No. 1 contender fight for beating Chris Leben, a guy I beat three years ago. Chael Sonnen just had his shot, then failed a steroid test on the back end of it. But I think [the UFC] knows what they’re doing. I’ll probably fight one more time after this and should be fighting for the title next year.”

In anticipation of a 2012 title run, Bisping decided to change scenery this year, relocating his family from England to the Anaheim, Calif. area.

The decision has brightened his life both metaphorically and literally speaking -- his morning runs now take place on sunny beaches instead of in English rain and mud --but it hasn’t been cheap. He’s maintained much of his same camp, which means he pays for their full expenses during camp.

“Training camp is expensive,” Bisping said. “Some coaches come from overseas, so you have to pay the earnings they’ve lost for coming here, plus food and hotels. Then you’ve got sparring partners.

“Then it’s, ‘Oh, what are we doing this weekend? Let’s go to the movies.’ I’ve got to pay for that because they’re there for me.”

It will all be worth it, however, when Bisping reaches the end result of a title shot. And while he admits it’s unknown whether or not he has what it takes to dethrone Silva, he thinks his chances are better than what most think.

“I want my shot at him and I feel I match up well,” Bisping said. “I’m very elusive when I want to be and I hit hard, contrary to popular belief. I’m a complete fighter.

“I’ll give him a better fight than what he’s had recently. Nate Marquardt fell on the floor. Forrest Griffin fell on the floor. Yushin Okami stared at him a bit, then fell on the floor. I’ll give him a fight. Will I beat him? That remains to be seen. But trust me, I’m capable of it.”

TUF times ahead for stagnant show

November, 30, 2011
11/30/11
12:05
PM ET
Gross By Josh Gross
ESPN.com
Archive
Jason MillerJosh Hedges/Ultimate Fighting Productions LLC via Getty ImagesJason Miller didn't have a whole lot to get excited about during this season of "The Ultimate Fighter."
Season 14 of the "The Ultimate Fighter," the final chapter involving UFC and Spike TV, wraps up Saturday in Las Vegas and marks the close of a seminal chapter in the history of mixed martial arts in America.

The impact of TUF on the growth of the UFC in the U.S. is undeniable. The show served many purposes, perhaps none more important than, as UFC executives framed it at the beginning, a "Trojan Horse" that penetrated MMA into the homes of millions of potential fight fans and pay-per-view buyers.

To that end, TUF is a resounding success. But what of its other mandate, the one that promised a new generation of fighters who would emerge through the show's tournament format to become top fighters and potential champions?
[+] EnlargeRashad Evans and Michael Bisping
AP Photo/Rich SchultzPulling his weight: Rashad Evans is one of the few to find success in the UFC after his time on TUF.

On that front, it's easily argued that TUF fell woefully short and will continue to fall woefully short, even as TUF moves to a new format of live weekly fights on FX as part of UFC's seven-year, $700-million deal with FOX properties. The show's success among young men aged 18-34 was as important to locking down the FOX deal as the potential of live fights such as November's heavyweight championship clash between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. TUF is a ratings grabber, and as such a valued television property. That's fine. But it's hard to get past the fact that absent TUF's early seasons, as a vehicle for new stars carrying a lasting impact inside the Octagon, the show is as meaningful to the UFC as Golf Channel's "The Big Break" has been to the PGA Tour.

Will the lure of extended seasons and weekly live fights change that dynamic for the better? It’s doubtful. The vast majority of top American and Canadian prospects find their way into the UFC without the need for the pseudo "Real World" thing.

Since Season 2 in 2006, when Rashad Evans won the season’s heavyweight tournament, TUF has not produced a champion-level winner. Evans was the perfect fighter for the show. Unlike Season 1 victors Diego Sanchez and Forrest Griffin, both well-established fighters when they walked into the TUF format, Evans was a MMA neophyte. His talent and drive were harnessed in the format, and he continues to be a force in the UFC today. That’s a rarity. Fighters such as Josh Koscheck, Kenny Florian and Gray Maynard had less than a handful of fights when they stepped on set. They may not have won the show -- in large part because they weren't equipped to do so -- but it served as an important proving ground for their eventual rise to contendership.

Less and less, however, has TUF exhibited the ability to produce these kinds of fighters, in large part because the demand for talent has been fierce, and not just as entry level competitors in the UFC. Other promoters with relationships on various network platforms needed fighters too, and so in time UFC and Spike executives ran into the reality that they weren't picking from a deep enough pool at the start.

TUF winners aren't taken seriously anymore. That will only get worse, at least as far as North America goes. Even in rich divisions like lightweight, suspecting that a Maynard-type fighter will find his way out of the desert runs contrary to the evidence.
[+] EnlargeCourt McGee
Ross Dettman for ESPN.com Season 11 winner Court McGee, right, has been slow to leave a mark since his time on "The Ultimate Fighter."

There is hope, however, for fight fans. As the UFC continues to expand internationally, the TUF format is poised to morph into a global talent showcase, which is incredibly exciting for people like me who want nothing more from MMA than for it to answer one question: who is the best fighter in the world? TUF has not had a hand in answering that question for some time. UFC president Dana White has promised a global TUF tournament, where winners from different regions come together to fight and prove their ultimate worthiness.

I have high hopes that if a global tournament actually happens, mixed martial artists will arise who are capable of competing at the highest level. They honestly need to -- and soon -- because without that elemental question swirling around TUF's DNA, what purpose does it serve, other than a ratings grabber of young men in a key advertising demographic?

Not that there's anything wrong with that. The long-running program makes money and continues to hook new viewers of the UFC. That's all fine. But unless a Court McGee or Tony Ferguson do something in a real way inside the Octagon, why should anyone truly pay attention?

It's been a long time since I have. It would be nice to have that change.
Jason Miller claims he knows everything about Michael Bisping's preparations for their TUF 14 showdown next week, because insiders from the Bisping camp keep offering him information. More »

TUF 14 comes closer to the show's essence

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
12:02
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
Archive
DENVER -- Michael Bisping doesn’t hate Jason Miller. If you’ve watched Bisping in his other stints on the “Ultimate Fighter” -- both as a contestant in Season 3 and as a coach in Season 9 -- you realize this is the story within the story in a series running low on plot resources. How can it be that Bisping and Miller remain civil? Traditionally, Bisping gets his dander up good and proper, whether it’s because Tito Ortiz is nurturing Matt Hamill instead of him or that Dan Henderson doesn’t go in for constant barbs (nor get bothered by them).

This time through? Eh. In Mayhem, he has the usual peeves that come along with being in close proximity with somebody for six weeks, but it’s a kind of brotherly annoyance. That’s just Miller. There’s no true malice.

Bisping admitted as much last night to a small group of media at the Paramount Theater in Denver, saying “Mayhem’s alright in small doses, but when you got to spend six weeks with the guy…” This would almost hold true of anybody. Yet, it’s a feat for Miller -- who has an atypical brand of humor -- to remain on any kind of even keel with one of the more combustible tempers in the UFC.

And honestly, in talking about the events that belong to their muzzled past and yet to everyone else’s future, both Miller and Bisping appeared more likeable. There were a few allusions to some pranks to watch out for ... but even they were quick to dismiss these as the worst of the pending clichés. They would know, after all.

Both fighters seemingly understood early that the fights/fighters themselves -- bantams and featherweights -- were all we needed to appreciate the bigger meaning of the show. If you caught the fights on the season premier last night -- 16 fights, 13 finishes, around 25 busted grills -- it’s easy to understand this kind of yielding. This time, though, it’s all about the contestants with a couple of awkwardly entertaining co-stars (Bisping and Miller), which gets it closer to the show’s original design. Given that the lighter-weight classes are the most underexposed in the game, this takes on a little more significance.

Would it have been better if Chael Sonnen were cast opposite Michael Bisping, as the UFC originally wanted? Of course. The possibility of gaskets being blown is good rare fun. But for those who prefer action over words, there are 16 better reasons to tune in.
Jason Miller has labelled Michael Bisping a "goon" of a fighter, who is predictable and runs away when he feels threatened. More »

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