Josh Gross
Saturday May 10th, 2008

Jason Miller screams because he can't hear.

It's a nice change of pace, really. Generally, he screams just to hear himself. But this Monday afternoon, Miller at least has a reason.

"Illusionist!" he yells, challenging a self-esteem-deficient board operator. "You smell so bad you broke the headphones!"

On an abbreviated edition of "Mayhem Mondays" on Jason Ellis' satellite radio show, Miller can't hear the Australian skateboarder curse at his sidekick, "the Illusionist," for failing at his job. Each unheard word prompts Miller to raise the volume of his voice and more passionately toggle dials on a bank of dead headphones that are jacked into a panel on the underbelly of the radio board.

Towing pristine skateboards, branded with names like Tony Hawk and Bam Margera, and accentuated by Team Quest and Triumph United stickers, Miller, nestled in the back of a building populated by rehearsing bands, finds comfort is this cozy West Hollywood studio.

Between attacks on the Illusionist, a man whose lack of hygienics leave a trail of Hot Pocket-like fumes, Miller gives a glance. He's got headphones now, having accosted them from poor Illusionist's ears.

"I get paid to hangout," Miller says.

That's only partially true. Miller really gets paid to fight. And it's less than 36 hours before he'll fly to Tokyo for a short-notice bout on Sunday's Dream card.

An hour ago, the middleweight poured sweat over a stationary bike at Legends MMA in Hollywood, California. A hood drawn over his head as he burned through 45 minutes, Miller called me over during the last half of the cardio ride.

"Have we started the interview yet?" he asks just minutes into our chat. I show him the flickering red light on my tape recorder. "Good, perfect."

No wasted time here. If Miller has air in his lungs, he can talk. A passing camera crew thanks "Mayhem" for his time before apologizing. There were phone issues; He had to start screaming again. It seems electronic hearing devices aren't his friend today.

If Miller doled out mea culpas for each increase in decibel level, there'd never be room for anything else. He shrugs off the earlier interview: "If you don't get me, it sucks."

Ellis gets Mayhem. And after the stink over Illusionist's headphone flap, Ellis starts in with Miller, who seems to have met his match.

"He's like a pitbull and I'm a choker chain," Ellis says, seemingly recovering from a panic attack. "Every now and then you give it a tug. He knows."

The Miller that Ellis speaks of - a unique take on the fighter -- is tempered. Having moved to Hollywood with a now ex-girlfriend, the fighter is focused on building his brand of Mayhem.

MMA is the phalanx in that plan. Without his unmistakable style and exciting bouts, the rest would've never come. Born out of a manic work rate, Miller can boast of his regular gig with Ellis, apparel company Triumph United, which has found its spot in the sea of MMA clothing ventures and has taken a unique liking to fans.

"People are attracted to energy. He's a ball of fury," Ellis says of Miller. "The guy can go all day, all night. I think the toughest thing that dude has to do in his life is switch off. He's just the most energetic person I know."

Ellis speaks from first-hand experience. Having lived with Miller, the popular radio host knows Mayhem better than most. As an extreme sports junkie, Ellis looked for another jolt in the tough room of Team Quest's Temecula, Calif., MMA facility. Enter Miller, a veteran of what he calls the "graduate program at Team Quest University, the top international destination for training."

"(Miller's) incredibly passionate about what he does, and he's not afraid to express whatever he's feeling at any moment," says Team Quest trainer Ryan Parsons.

It was Parsons who paired up Ellis and Miller, and for the past six months the duo has offered fans of the FACTION, a satellite network for anyone with a skateboard, rants and random thoughts on MMA.

Discussion this Monday has turned to Miller's short-notice fight against Katsuyori Shibata, owner of just two wins in five fights. Based off records and experience, the opening-round contest for the current Dream 185-pound Grand Prix is a total mismatch in Miller's favor.

However, returning from the first major injury of his career - "a minor procedure" to Miller -- to repair what was later found to be a completely torn anterior cruciate ligament, Mayhem plans on conducting business Sunday (HDNet replay at 4 p.m. ET).

"The fear for me is that if you take a mental break, you screw up," Miller says. "I'm very focused during the fight. I'm going to try my best not to goof off like I do in a lot of my fights. I'm going to go out there, beat him up, collect my check and get out of there. I want to put on a great show, but for this fight in particular, since it's a tournament, I want to stay very healthy. So, no chances. No risks."

Distractions, says Ellis, have kept Miller (20-5) from finding his best. But the fighter may not have had much of a choice.

"He's distracted with himself," Ellis says. "There's five other people in there talking to him. He's a distracted man. But when he's focused, I don't think there's anyone that can beat him."

Mental lapses have been costly. There's been jail time, including a 10-day complimentary penal-system bus ride from Las Vegas to Atlanta. ("I was so cold the first night -- they keep it freezing -- I was cuddled up with some convict," Miller says.) But those moments, he would like to believe, are behind him.

"It's one of those things where every time I think of doing something stupid, the pit of my stomach comes up," Miller says. "That's why I don't drink anymore. I've had enough of those experiences, and enough tangos with the law, that I'll never go back to that lifestyle anymore. I think I made an active effort to get the treatment and get the mental help."

That's relative, of course. The Illusionist, for one, wouldn't be wrong if he thought Miller still had a long way to go.

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