Jason "Mayhem" Miller has had a rough few years. First, he was released by the UFC after terrible showings against Michael Bisping and CB Dolloway. Then, he was arrested for breaking into a church—without any clothes on. Next, there were a handful of domestic abuse and assault charges. Then, there was his five-hour standoff with a SWAT Team in Orange County. And finally, in late 2015, there was another assault-related arrest, when Mayhem allegedly attacked a police officer with a ceramic tile. Indeed, the stretch between 2012 and 2016 saw the 35-year-old BJJ black belt devolve from one of the sport's most colorful personalities to one of its most troubled figures.
Last weekend, when Mayhem touched down in Milan, Italy, he had the chance to turn things around. In his first fight in nearly four years, the troubled UFC veteran was scheduled to take on Luke Barnatt for Venator FC's middleweight crown. Unfortunately, however, he missed the middleweight division's cap by a ridiculously unprofessional 24 pounds, and was ejected from this much-discussed belt fight with Barnatt as a result.
Thankfully, some serious scrambling on Venator's part meant that, while Mayhem would no longer be challenging for the middleweight crown, he would still get a fight—and a payday. On the eve of battle, the struggling UFC vet was paired with opportunistic Italian middleweight Mattia Schiavolin for a last-minute light heavyweight showdown.
From there, however, things went from bad to worse for Mayhem. Despite a few moments of success early in the fight, the polarizing veteran found himself on the wrong side of a second-round rear-naked choke. Winless for almost five years and suddenly on the first three-fight skid of his long career, the comeback that was supposed to turn his life around had been a downright disaster.
According to a post-fight interview with Poland's MmaNews.pl, however, this loss may have been just what Mayhem needed.
"If you don't learn from an experience, that's because you haven't thought about it long enough," Miller told the site. "Look, it's only been about an hour and I already thought a lot about this. I have an idea of where to start to change my whole life."
"It was a hard way to learn it in front of a beautiful Italian crowd, but I feel this is kind of a re-awakening of the Mayhem," he continued. "I felt a positive feeling that I haven't felt in the longest time. So despite the loss I'm being hopeful for the future."
Yes, it seems as though Mayhem's ugly loss in Italy has served as a bit of a wakeup call. He sounds as though he might actually be motivated again. So, if Mayhem's competitive fire is reignited, and he's able to keep his personal life under control, where does he go from here? Well, despite his losing streak, he's still got some interesting options ahead.
After his horrible weigh-in miss, Mayhem's being given another fight under the Venator banner might seem unlikely. Venator President Frank Merenda, however, has been quite vocal in his belief that Mayhem deserves a shot at redemption, and so Mayhem's stepping into the Venator cage in the near future is probably not as unlikely as it seems. And he's got some interesting options there.
Of course, any next step into the Venator cage will depend on Miller's weight. If he decides he's tired of the cut to 185 pounds, he might look forward to a light heavyweight bout with fellow UFC outcast Matt Hamill, who is also on a three-fight skid after a knockout loss to Sokoudjou on last weekend's Venator card.
If Mayhem's apparent reinvigoration means he's willing to recommit to the cut to middleweight, he might look forward to a fight with Stefan Croitoru, the man who replaced him and ultimately lost to Barnatt last weekend. Perhaps the most intriguing of Mayhem's options in the Venator cage, however, would be a clash with Rousimar Palhares. Granted, Palhares has spent the last few years competing as a welterweight, but considering the Brazilian's blitzkrieg loss to Emil Weber Meek last weekend, and his current suspension in the United States, he's running low on options. He might, then, be convinced to move back up to middleweight for a fight with Mayhem, for a clash of two troubled, but undeniably talented fighters in dire need of a big win.
Then again, Miller's future is not confined to the Venator cage. While he's unlikely to see the UFC's Octagon again, and probably won't even be invited to Bellator or One Championship, there are plenty of talented middleweights out there with which he might tangle. He could, for example, head to Russia to mix it up with a struggling former Bellator champion in Alexander Shlemenko. He might also mix it up with fellow free agents Christian M'Pumbu or Jesse Taylor. He might even take a trip to World Series of Fighting—an organization that has provided sanctuary to struggling fighters like Palhares and Thiago Silva in the past—for fights with middleweights like Clifford Starks or Dagestan's Vagab Vagabov, whose 20-0 record more than warrants a big-name opponent.
The thesis here is simply that while Mayhem's fighting career is currently at an all-time low, there is no need to shuttle it off to the morgue just yet. If the middleweight veteran is indeed refocused in the wake of his embarrassing Venator loss, he has plenty of interesting options ahead, any of which would provide him with a sorely needed push toward redemption.