Jason “Mayhem” Miller said he fought two fights at Strikeforce/M-1 Global “Fedor vs. Rogers” Saturday at the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
“The first fight for me is the entrance,” said the extroverted Miller, who bounced into the arena surrounded by a bevy of gyrating dancers toting red umbrellas, much to the delight of the 11,512 spectators in attendance. “I like putting on a little show. I had fun during that part.”
Miller’s second battle that night -- a five-round grinder against Jake Shields for the promotion’s vacated middleweight title --didn’t go as well. Miller lost a unanimous decision to Shields, who steered much of the 25 minutes with takedowns and aggressive grappling.
“I walked out and didn’t perform well in the fight. I under-performed,” said Miller. “So, I’ll take victory in the first fight and a loss in the second one.”
In the night’s popularity rankings, Miller was a resounding winner. The audience jeered the decision as it was read, and hissed at Shields while the belt was strapped to his waist. The response was unwarranted, as Shields, a respectful but not overly dynamic personality, executed a well laid-out game plan. However, that is the price Miller’s opponents pay for fighting the court jester of MMA.
The 28-year-old Miller has had plenty of practice in stealing away the hearts of fans. In Japan, where fighter entrances are treated as performance art, Miller perfected his craft.
He also stars as the host of MTV’s popular “Bully Beatdown” reality series, where neighborhood tormentors get a taste of their own medicine squaring off in brief, separate grapping and striking contests in the cage with a rotating cast of fighters. It’s the perfect platform for the quirky Miller’s quick tongue and hip vernacular.
In the art of entertainment, Miller has a PhD. He also believes that putting on a show for the fans is a necessary piece of his process, just as much as rolling on the mats or hitting the pads backstage.
“For me it’s like a little warm-up,” he said. “I go through my choreography and have a good time. And then afterwards, it’s just the same thing in a different form. I have these choreographed motions that I do inside the cage, which you call fighting. I have to freestyle while I’m in there.”
In Saturday’s dance with Shields, Miller missed a few steps. Though a proficient grappler himself, Miller didn’t earn points with the judges as the constant defender.
“I didn’t do that part so well,” said Miller. “I have to sharpen some things up and get back in the gym because I don’t think I prepared well enough for this fight and he exposed that I didn’t.”
Specifically, Miller wished he’d trained his wrestling more. The madcap middleweight admitted he’d emphasized his striking drills during training camp, hoping to catch Shields on the feet. Ironically, Miller’s greatest moment in the fight came where he least expected it -- on the canvas. With 30 seconds left on the third-round clock, Miller managed to secure a rear-naked choke, but Shields, a schooled Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, relaxed into the hold and rode out the final seconds.
“He did what he had to do to win and I just didn’t sink in that choke enough,” said Miller. “I didn’t do enough to capitalize on the chances that I had, so I deserve to lose.”
Miller’s loss in the Strikeforce cage was overshadowed by the ovation he got for his fearless individuality. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker noted what a compelling personality Miller was at the event, which drew in close to four million viewers on CBS’s “Saturday Night Fights.” That will be victory enough for Miller, who is all but guaranteed a return invitation to the promotion in the coming months.