Methods of Mayhem: Can Jason Miller Find Redemption in the Cage?

Jason-Mayhem-Miller-Surprised-750x370By Brad Wharton Some people operate on a different wavelength. Pioneers, geniuses, game-changers; they are of a different mental make up compared to the average person and the mark they leave on the world reflects that. Different doesn’t necessarily mean good, though. Some don’t so much leave a mark as they do a stain. Jason “Mayhem” Miller is perhaps the most aptly-nicknamed fighter to run the gauntlet, but his legacy (thus far) is that of a self-destructive narcissist. Can he find redemption in the cage? “This is not going to end well.” Those were my first thoughts when the Twitter machine told me that Jason Miller’s latest foray into the mayhem that became his namesake was holed up and surrounded by armed police. A showman in and around the cage, Mayhem had always left people guessing as to how much of his act was good business and how much was the actions of a genuinely unhinged individual. As his successful fight career became a smaller and smaller speck in life’s rear-view mirror, Miller’s downward spiral deepened. The tomfoolery took a turn for the worse and while MMA is no stranger to individuals with colorful pasts where their law is concerned, the allegations against Miller had started to become sinister. Public records of his court appearance following a pair of related arrests made for a sobering reading. Allegations that Miller had choked his partner unconscious before urinating on her shocked an Orange County court. Records show that he had to be admonished by the judge for making faces at the alleged victim while the allegations were read. This was not a stupid kid driving under the influence, or a hot head throwing down at a bar. This was serious. While things thankfully didn’t take a darker turn than above, as weeks and months passed, Miller’s break from reality became more and more apparent. Any headline containing the phrase “arrested following naked church incident” is bound (and rightly so) to raise a smile, but was clear that something was not right with the self-styled ‘artist.’ If Miller was method acting, then it was among history’s finest performances, a more likely scenario was that his grasp on the line between fantasy and reality had become irreparably blurred. Fast forward to his five-hour stand-off with Orange County SWAT officers, and the grim notion that Miller may live tweet his own death seemed like i twas slowly coming to bear. And while there was no suggestion that he was out to get himself hurt or killed, Miller’s tweets had descended into the kind of disconnected, irrational paranoia likely to end in a tragic accident. Thankfully, it didn’t. In my personal experience, the MMA industry has more than its fair share of shady and/or damaged characters. I don’t think anybody with a degree of involvement above ‘TV fan’ would dispute that notion. On the same note, it would be unfair to ignore the opportunities it affords those genuinely seeking a clean slate at all levels. The discipline and camaraderie of martial arts has saved many a kid from walking the wrong path, or offered a route to redemption for those born or bred into tough times. The UFC counts amongst its ranks many a fighter with a checkered past. By that rationale, it’s commendable that Venator FC have offered Miller a lifeline. A new face on the European scene promoting modestly-sized shows with solid production values, the outfit has the financial clout to fly in fighters recognizable to the hardcore fans from across Europe. While middleweight champion Luke Barnatt might be their most relevant signing of late (he was snapped up instantly following the end of his UFC tenure and holds the promotion’s 185 lb title), Miller is their biggest coup yet in terms of media footprint. The cynic in me says that Miller may struggle to obtain a fight licence in anywhere but the least stringent US states. His acquisition by Venator is as much of a headline grabber for them and a payday for the troubled former star as anything else. But let’s – for the sake or argument – assume that everyone’s intentions are entirely selfless… Here’s the thing about redemption: you have to want it. Miller has done little to indicate that he does. He’s been out of the MMA spotlight since the SWAT incident, until reports surfaced late last year of yet another alleged domestic altercation, this time with two women at his Mission Viejo, California home. A statement from local police described him throwing a ceramic tile at attending officers before threatening them with a metal pole and fire extinguisher during an eight minute stand-off. The sorry episode was brought to a close with the troubled fighter being shot with a Taser and arrested for assault on a police officer. Just days after Venator announced his signing and middleweight title fight against Barnatt, TMZ broke the news of yet another arrest for Miller, this time for DUI. These are not the actions of a man trying to help himself. Are Venator at fault here? No. Miller is a prize fighter and they are paying him money to fight. Are they taking a risk? Sure. Few are betting on the bout coming off and it would be astounding if the promotion didn’t have a back-up plan for that scenario. With that said, the promotion has – by all accounts – a stellar reputation when it comes to looking after their fighters. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so cynical after all? The real risk is Miller’s though. He has competed since the late 90’s and knows how unforgiving the sport can be. The effort and mental exertion required is exhausting on all levels. The very concept of giving every ounce of your being in pursuit of a goal for weeks and months only to come up short in full view of the whole world is potentially devastating to even the most mentally strong. If it is just a payday, then we’re looking at an unprepared, out of shape Miller putting himself in a position to get hurt. Has he weight up those risks? Is he capable of doing so right now? Conventional wisdom says that the last place someone like Miller needs to eb is in the relentless pressure cooker of MMA. Celebrity downfall horror show TMZ have him on speed dial and his very nature will prevent him from escaping to the wilderness for a Rocky-esque fight camp. It’s not in his make-up…and it’s such a shame. Miller was loaded with potential. Take a look at his ledger, he’s not exactly made a habit of losing to all and sundry. And while some of his notable victories can be written off in retrospect (Robbie Lawler: Too young, Kazushi Sakurable: Too old) he’s not exactly what you’d call a bum fighter. More than that, he was one of very few to cross over into the realm of mainstream popularity without the backing of the UFC marketing machine. Miller hosted a show on MTV when teh concept of seeing MMA fighters on screen for anything other than a searing expose of the industry was unheard of. Is this fight a lifeline, or another chapter in the increasing depressing story of Mayhem Miller? Can he find redemption in the cage, or will it be his death sentence? That all depends on how much faith you’re willing to put into the man and ultimately, how much faith he’s willing to put into himself.

Written by Brad Wharton

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