Ben Fowlkes
Friday December 2nd, 2011

LAS VEGAS -- I'll admit it: it's strange to see Jason "Mayhem" Miller this calm. Unsettling, even. As he leans back on the plush sofa in his suite at the Palms, patiently explaining how he finally feels like a mature, responsible individual -- "I'm like a real adult now, which is weird," he says -- I can't help but wonder if this is some elaborate practical joke.

Any minute now, I feel certain that he'll go back into "Mayhem" mode. Just when I've bought this whole psychologically stable act, he'll burst into that maniacal laugh of his and jump up on the coffee table.

But not this time. Not for this fight.

As Miller explains it, the training camp to prepare for his fight with Michael Bisping on the The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale show this Saturday night taught him some important things about himself.

"I climbed to the top of a mountain and a wise old Asian man told me, 'Don't go with the anger, go with the music,'" he says. "So that's what I'm going to do. I'm not going to fight this man angry."

And, okay, under further questioning Miller admits that the mountain was actually a California Pizza Kitchen and the wise old Asian man was actually his girlfriend's father, but hey, an epiphany is an epiphany.

He and Bisping may have traded their barbs as coaches of the UFC's long-running reality show, but Miller is not going to let himself go crazy once the cage door swings shut, he says. That's because "Mayhem" Miller is all grown up now, as hard as that is to imagine.

"I've lived a lot of different lives," he says. "I had that weirdo era where I fought in the UFC [the first time] and I was fighting [Georges St-Pierre] and was trying to make 170 [pounds]. Then I had a crazy Hawaiian era, where there were distractions and drama and every problem a human being can have. But now I'm in the best place I've ever been in my life."

Even Miller isn't totally sure what he attributes the change to, though, of course, his mustache has to be mentioned. He started growing it partly because of the Movember cancer-awareness campaign, but also partly because it gave his training partners a laugh. And though he plans to shave it for the fight, it's gotten to be a pretty decent 'stache that lends him a vague sense of authority.

"I even had a kid at the video game store call me 'sir'," he says. "I was like, what? Oh right, the mustache."

But even after he shaves it, he says, the old "Mayhem" who dove on nightclub tables and got into brawls on live network TV will still be a thing of the past. That might be just in the nick of time, too, since he's finally getting another crack at the UFC, and this time it might be his last.

Miller is nearly 31 years old now, after all. He's had more than 30 fights and put more than a decade into crafting this career for himself. Along the way, he admits, he's lived "a pretty chaotic life," but he might have picked the best time to settle it down. A win over Bisping would vault him up the middleweight ranks and provide a promising start to this UFC stay.

What about the fact that Miller is getting this chance now, after more than a year without a fight while Strikeforce kept him on the sidelines? That's not a problem, he insists. In fact, it might even help him. Not only did that bit of career adversity give him a chance to think and reflect, it also let him get back to the gym for some needed changes.

"I've had a lot of time to work on various aspects of my game and kind of fix some things that were wrong with me," he says. "But man, I've been in the cage so many times. I'm not going to forget how to fight."

As for Bisping, Miller is willing to admit that, even though he gets a bad rap from American fans, he's an okay guy for the most part, "though he did steal that decision from the deaf kid that one time."

Still, Miller didn't go through all this just to show up on Saturday night and lose on Spike TV, he says. The highs and the lows he's gone through, the misspent youth that threatened to leave him fighting in second-tier promotions for good, all that might have been the perfect preparation for this moment. Now, not only is he experienced enough to make something out of his second chance, he's also mature enough to appreciate it for what it is.

"The rollercoaster of my life has been an exciting one. I've been through dips and boring stretches and loopty-loops, but now is a tremendously exciting time. Now I'm actually an adult."

And yeah, that's going to take some getting used to. Maybe even more so for us than for him.

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