Lost in the woods: the search for the real Jason Miller

At first it seemed like nothing more than a bad joke. On this past Monday's episode of The MMA Hour Jason "Mayhem" Miller seemed intent on flipping the script on host Ariel Helwani when he adopted the persona of his character "Lucky Patrick" from the upcoming film Here Comes the Boom. Things got bizarre in a hurry though when Miller steadfastly refused to drop the schtick after repeated requests from Helwani to get serious. From there the interview went off the rails as Miller engaged in a bizarre series of actions that ran the gamut from reproachable, to disturbing, to outright pitiable. The debacle came to a crescendo when he stormed out of the studio after laying into Helwani with a profanity laden tirade.

It was a harrowing scene that left more than a few concerned for Miller's emotional well being. Of course there were also a handful of apologists on message boards and news site comment sections who claimed he was just taking a page from Andy Kaufman's playbook. According to this point of view he was only playing a role and his outburst shouldn't be taken as indicative of any underlying issues.

If that's the case, then what Miller did was indefensible. Playing a role doesn't give one carte blanche to use race and ethnicity in an inflammatory manner, insult someone who is trying to do his job, and damage another person's property. If dismissively saying, "Thanks a lot, Jew," to Helwani and picking up an Anderson Silva action figure and asking, "Who's this black guy?" were part of an act, then it was a pretty crummy act.

Assuming Miller was just trying to promote his movie with the Lucky Patrick schtick, how exactly does referring condescendingly to Helwani's heritage or Silva's skin color further that goal? Did personally insulting Helwani by calling him a "whore" sell one more ticket to Here Comes the Boom?

It was hard to watch as Miller scattered Helwani's personal effects across his desk with an aggressive backhand, treated what was undoubtedly a very expensive microphone like an armrest, and screamed in Helwani's face. It didn't feel like an innovative and entertaining gimmick to promote a movie; it felt like the former Bully Beatdown star had gone and become a bully himself.

From all accounts this isn't who Miller normally is. Helwani shared a story about Miller helping him get his green card by writing a letter stating he was a journalist of repute. The two have had a positive relationship in the past. In the closing moments of an interview conducted on May 26th, Miller congratulated Helwani by saying, "I'm really proud of what you've done" in reference to Helwani's career since the two first met four years ago. It was a stark juxtaposition from his actions this past Monday. I've never met Miller, but from what I saw of him on The Ultimate Fighter he seemed like a caring person who genuinely wanted to help the fighters on his team however he could. How is it then that he's suddenly acting like such a jerk?

I don't pretend to have all the answers, but if you look at Miller's past and pay attention to a few key points in his MMA Hour meltdown, some disturbing clues begin to emerge.

First, Miller has a documented history of mental illness. Miller revealed in a 2005 interview with that he has received treatment for for an undisclosed mental illness. Just what his exact illness was remains a mystery, and frankly it's a personal medical matter that is none of our business However, this past admission is hard to ignore in light of his recent behavior.

Helwani interviewed Miller back on May 24th of this year and even then there were hints that he had been going through some dark days. When asked about his loss to Michael Bisping on the finale of season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter last December, he said, "I went directly from that fight to the most torturous situations of my life...[I felt] pissed off...[It was] the coldest, deadest winter you can imagine...I came through it, and I was reborn. Sometimes you've gotta kill yourself to be born anew."

Just two days after this interview Miller would lose his UFC 146 fight against CB Dollaway, and subsequently his UFC career. There were conflicting reports of an incident backstage which White described as, "Some crazy s---." For his part Miller claimed it involved a dispute over him wearing a gas mask to the octagon. Whatever happened that night, it was enough to spell the end of his run in the UFC. He was promptly cut after the loss.

At the time Miller tried to put a positive spin on the situation and on May 28th told Helwani, "In the strangest way I feel free. I know that sounds strange when I devoted my entire life to fighting. I feel like life is unlocked to a whole new set of adventures."

It appeared Miller had found peace with life after mixed martial arts, but it's hard to take anything a fighter says in the days following getting cut from the UFC at face value.

A couple months later Miller got in a Twitter war with Dana White where he had this to say to the man who fired him, "Kill yourself...we are all begging you." Following this upsetting tweet he once again attempted to paint his situation in a positive light when he wrote, " my life is shaping up into exactly what I want it to be."

Two days later he would be found naked inside a vandalized Orange County church. Authorities followed a trail of fire extinguisher foam to the second floor where they encountered the nude Miller dozing on a couch. The first floor of the church had been trashed; there were broken pictures and books strewn all over the floor, the walls had been spray painted, and a window had been broken in what police believed to be a prior burglary attempt. When authorities asked him to identify himself, he didn't give his real name. They thought he wasn't being cooperative because he kept repeating the word "Mayhem" in answer to their queries.

This protean sense of identity is especially striking given Miller's refusal to break from the Lucky Patrick character on The MMA Hour and his reaction early in the interview when Helwani asked him where Mayhem was, "He's in the woods. Man, he's f----- stupid...He just disappears off in the middle of nowhere and gets lost."

Miller went back to the same theme later in the interview when a bemused Helwani asked to, "talk to the real Mayhem."

"Man look, the real Mayhem's probably dead. He's in the f----- woods. Sometimes you don't come back from the woods."

What made these words so chilling was the context in which they were delivered. Miller's actions over the past few months paint a picture of a man who is very much lost in the woods. Throughout the fourteen minute interview he seemed disconnected from social cues and conventional mores. It was there in nervous looks he gave the camera, occasional twitches of the mouth, and especially when he flew into a rage and screamed, "Now I'm a star! Right ma? Right ma? Look at me now!" Several pleas on Helwani's part to put an end to an act that was obviously bombing only made Miller grow more belligerent. Perhaps nothing better illustrated his apparent break with interpersonal norms than when he decided to get up on all fours on top of Helwani's desk shortly before storming off the set. No matter what rationalizations apologists may come up with, that was hardly the behavior of a well adjusted individual.

Helwani perfectly summed up the atmosphere created by the interview when he told an enraged and fleeing Mayhem, "This is not enjoyable."

It wasn't enjoyable. Not for viewers, not for Helwani, and I suspect not for Miller himself.

Miller's last words before walking off the set were, "Quit calling me Mayhem!" The anger in his voice when he said this didn't sound like that of an amateur actor playing a part. It sounded like that of a man on his last nerve.

I won't attempt to play armchair psychologist and posit that Miller's current obsession with the Lucky Patrick character is an attempt to distance himself from his problems by running away from himself. For some reason though I keep coming back to his multiple references to being lost in the woods. Maybe Mayhem really is "in the f----- woods." Maybe he really never is coming back. In the end that's probably OK.

What really matters is that Jason Miller finds his way out of the woods soon before he gets even more lost.

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