This weekend in Las Vegas, Jason "Mayhem" Miller and Michael Bisping finally will have the opportunity to make good on their respective promises.
Both men have made their intentions crystal clear, and Saturday night at the Season 14 finale of "The Ultimate Fighter," all the talk will be over. Miller is looking to make a triumphant return to the UFC, and with the clock ticking down, he is ready to make a statement on the sport’s biggest stage.
"I’m in fantastic shape," Miller said. "I prepared smart and had a great camp. My weight is good, and right now I’m just anxious and excited because I want to fight. It’s hard to do anything because all I can think about right now is beating the hell out of this guy.
"The fans are going to see a version of Mayhem they’ve never seen before this weekend in Las Vegas. They are going to see some damned fireworks. It’s going to be like Superman coming down from Krypton."
Their paths will cross at the finale, but the TUF 14 coaches have traveled different routes to become two of the best-known names in the sport. "Mayhem" built his fan base outside of Octagon, while Bisping has found notoriety and popularity in the UFC. The early betting line shows "The Count" as a 2-to-1 favorite heading into the fight – which Miller sees as a big mistake.
"I absolutely feel I’m being underestimated," Miller said. "But oddsmakers don’t set the odds based on what they really think – they set the odds to make money. If a lot of people are going to plunk money down on Bisping because they think it’s a safe bet, then a lot of people are going to lose money.
"It’s a bad style clash for him, and he knows it. He thinks I’m underestimating him and I’m not. I’m just well aware of what he is able to do, and what he does is not going to be able to keep me off of him for one round, let alone five."
As the former host of MTV’s hit series "Bully Beatdown," Miller is no stranger to the magic of television. That being the case, the structure of TUF is a unique setting where future opponents are forced to interact and compete against one another on a daily basis.
"It was definitely a different experience, but for me I didn’t care because it’s just a job," Miller said. "There were benefits to it, like not having to worry about hyping the fight because we took care of that on the show. I don’t have to think about any of that and can focus on kicking (Bisping’s) ass.
"I think we did the best we could as far as making a good season on ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’ I know a lot of the hard-core MMA fans are kind of burned out on it. They think it’s a little tired or stale, but I think we breathed some fresh new life into it. I think our run was a lot different than any of the other seasons. It was a good experience throughout, and I thought we made some entertaining television."
Bisping has become a lightning rod for fan discourse across the MMA landscape. Despite his impressive record, post-fight antics and banter have made Bisping the fighter many fans love to hate. The team at Ranger Up shared its opinion by releasing a video this week to support Miller’s cause – which Miller said he was a fan of.
"That Ranger Up video was funny as hell," Miller said. "It was perfect, and here is why: I honestly can’t tell you how many people have come up to me and tell me they want to see me kick Michael Bisping’s ass.
"I must hear it at least three times a day, and that’s me not going outside the little area where I train. When I go to an autograph signing or something like that, everybody under the sun has told me that. Thousands upon thousands of people have said, ‘I can’t wait until you beat up Michael Bisping.’"
After stripping away all the hype and build-up to the fight, Miller knows there is a huge opportunity sitting in front of him. Not only does he have the chance to defeat a top-ranked opponent, but he will attempt to do so under the UFC banner. For a fighter who has worked tirelessly, fighting around the globe, this return is six years in the making.
"The biggest thing about returning to the UFC is I’m coming back as a grown man," Miller said. "I’m an adult now, as opposed to before. I was a kid back then, and I didn’t really get anything – (I) didn’t understand life in general. I’m not saying I totally have a handle on every aspect of my life now, but I’m coming from a place that is much more grounded.
"I can effectively do my job – and my job is to be a face smasher."