Ben Fowlkes
Thursday November 5th, 2009

He hears it all the time: "Hey, Bully Beatdown guy!"

You'd think a pro athlete might get sick of this, being recognized for his role as the host of a gimmicky MTV reality show and not his athletic accomplishments. But Jason "Mayhem" Miller doesn't mind. He smiles. He waves. He is the Bully Beatdown guy, and that's OK with him.

"That's just how it is," he said. "If you go and hop on a project like that and you get a lot of fame for it, that's part of the package. But it doesn't matter to me what people think. If they actually watch me fight, they'll see that not only can I crack people up, I can crack somebody's head open."

On Saturday night, America will get the chance to see Miller's violent side for themselves when he takes on Jake Shields for the Strikeforce middleweight championship on CBS. To Miller, it's the culmination of a life spent as an entertainer who happens to be a fighter.

It all started when he was arrested as a teenager for stealing wood from a construction site to build a skateboard ramp. As a blend of punishment and guidance, his father forced him to read a Tony Robbins self-help book and complete all the exercises in it, one of which instructed him to write a list of the things he was good at.

"I remember the things I wrote down," he said. "Fighting was one of them and making people laugh was another. Here I am doing both."

Now the entire nation will be able to flip on their TVs -- cable subscription be damned -- and see those talents on display.

Network TV is big exposure for any MMA fighter, but it's an especially novel opportunity for someone like Miller, who's spent much of his career competing in Japan. There, his antics and larger-than-life persona have made him a fan favorite. In the States, though he's known as the M.C. of MTV's reality show, few have actually seen Miller in action in the cage.

Perhaps that's one reason his title fight with Shields hasn't received much of a promotional push from CBS, which seems content to pin all their hopes on the Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brett Rogers main event. Miller insists he's doing his best to get the word out about his fight with Shields -- who's a former bully-beater on the MTV show -- through various social media, but that doesn't mean he understands the CBS' decision to largely ignore the bout.

"I don't know if they realize that a lot of people watch Bully Beatdown and that would be great for them to grab that younger audience and say, 'Hey, you know that funny guy from Bully Beatdown? He's fighting this other guy from Bully Beatdown.' But they're not doing it for whatever reason," said Miller. "Maybe they're banking on the strength of being able to say they have the No. 1 heavyweight in the world. I don't know. I'm just a monkey. They throw peanuts at me and I dance."

And therein lies the rub for Mayhem: Dancing for the cameras would be just fine if his aspirations ended with being a TV host. But this could be his one shot to prove to an audience of millions that he's also a world-class fighter. That is, if he can get through heavily favored opponent with a fearsome ground game who hasn't lost a fight in nearly five years.

Miller insists that, unlike most of Shields' recent opponents, he isn't relying on his takedown defense to save him. If people think his only path to victory is to keep things standing, he says that's only because they don't know what he's capable of on the mat.

"I'm good enough on the ground to not only survive, but to turn the tables and submit him," said Miller. "I'm good enough, but people have yet to see it," says Miller. "I'm not really afraid of getting taken down. Even if he takes me down, so what? It's still a fight after that. It's not like he's going to smash me the way he does all the 170-pounders."

For most fighters outside the UFC, opportunities to prove yourself to the world are few and far between, and Miller knows it. He's trained harder for this fight than any other in his career, he says, but he isn't feeling any extra pressure with it being on prime-time network television. Why would he? For a born entertainer like him, it's just another chance to bask in the spotlight.

"I live for this. I love to do this job," he said. "I just let it come naturally. I do what I like, and that's what's going to help me win this fight. I really enjoy what I'm doing."

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