"You're being too kind, we hate each other's guts," said Jason Miller, responding to a question from Neil Davidson during yesterday's conference call to promote the upcoming season the Ultimate Fighter. Davidson had asked if the rivalry between Miller and Michael Bisping was more brotherly than personal.
Miller continued, "At the same time, I can't speak for Mike, because I can't talk with that stupid accent, but there has to be a mutual [muffled] at some level because come December 3rd, we'll get in the cage across from each other. ... At the end of the day, we're all fighters, and there is a brotherhood amongst fighters."
The question was then posed to Bisping. "For me, personally, hate's a very strong word," Bisping said. "I wouldn't say I hate him. Do I find him irritating? Do I find him annoying? Yes, I do. Do I want to fight him December 3rd and kick his ass and shut his big, fat mouth? Yes, I do. Do I wish him any real harm to him or his family? No, I don't."
It was just thirty minutes prior, at the top of the call, that Bisping had used the very same "h" word in reference to Miller. "Jason's one of those guys you either love him or you hate him. I definitely hate him," Bisping said. "At the start of the show I hated him, during the show I hated him, and at the end of the show I hated him."
Bisping's contradictions didn't stop there. When asked to compare Miller to UFC 127 opponent Jorge Rivera, Bisping noted that Rivera "crossed a line" when he brought family into the pre-fight trash talk. Just minutes later, Bisping told Miller that it was "nice to see you've been warming up on your sister," referencing Miller's August arrest for simple assault and false imprisonment of his sister at a house party in North Carolina.
Despite their assurances, the hate between Michael Bisping and Jason Miller is manufactured. There is no real animosity here, and it would be foolish to think that their fight in December doesn't end with a handshake or a hug or some talk about "burying the hatchet" in the post-fight interview.
But this is why the UFC and Spike TV chose Bisping and Miller to headline this season of the show, the last to appear on the latter's cable network. We've seen over the past year that some sort of drama, manufactured or not, must be present to make the current format of the show work. Last September, we prepared to watch Josh Koscheck spend three months taking pot shots at Georges St. Pierre, leading to 785,000 pay-per-view buys at UFC 124.
Many people thought Dana White pulled off a tremendous coup in landing Brock Lesnar opposite Junior dos Santos for the thirteenth season of the show. The pair had little to mesh over. Lesnar's recovery from diverticulitis left him with a new, friendlier outlook on life, and dos Santos played the happy-go-lucky Brazilian, providing drama only when he had to kick coach Lew Polley off the team.
The success of the show hinges on Bisping and Miller's ability to create compelling television. The season of the Ultimate Fighter is the last entity to air on Spike TV before the promotion moves their content to the Fox family in 2012. The UFC appears to have an amicable relationship with the cable network despite the breakup, but there's no guarantee that the show will have near the support as in year's past. (The exception being the Lesnar/dos Santos season. Spike moved the show up an hour and used it as a lead-in for their original show Coal.)
It's a notion that Miller understood coming on to the show. "My first priority was to make sure that I give my full attention to coaching these guys. ... Secondly was to make entertaining television. ... At the end of the day, it is television, and we need to make something happen so that the audience is in engaged."