By Dayton Morinaga – Honolulu Advertiser
Jason “Mayhem” Miller has a choke hold on Falaniko Vitale, who lost the mixed martial arts bout by submission at Blaisdell Arena Friday.
Falaniko Vitale’s successful mixed martial arts career may have come to an end late Friday night.
Jason “Mayhem” Miller beat Vitale via choke submission in the main event of the Icon Sport: Opposites Attract card at the Blaisdell Center Arena.
After the bout, Vitale said he is “leaning” toward retirement.
“That’s my thought right now,” he said. “I’m going to take some time off and think real deep about it, but my plan right now is just to help coach some of the younger guys.”
Vitale, a Waipahu High graduate who now resides in ‘Ewa, is 31. His professional record dropped to 20-5, and it was his second consecutive loss.
He is considered one of Hawai’i’s most popular and successful fighters in the sport. Friday’s bout drew a crowd of around 7,000.
“It’s obviously up to him what he wants to do next, but I think he has a lot left,” Icon Sport president T. Jay Thompson said.
Vitale trained in Kirkland, Wash., for seven weeks in preparation for Friday’s fight.
“All the reports I got about Niko’s training in Washington were amazing, and you could see what great shape he was in,” Thompson said. “He just got caught this time by another great fighter.”
Miller, who is originally from Atlanta but trains in Las Vegas, beat Vitale by applying a rear-naked choke hold in the second round. The referee stopped the bout 2 minutes, 41 seconds into the round.
“I feel like Hawai’i’s haole son now,” Miller said. “The amount of love I felt from this crowd overpowered the hate. I feel like my job now is to bring the title back to Hawai’i.”
Miller, 24, earned a championship bout against Iowa’s Robbie Lawler by beating Vitale. Lawler beat Vitale for the 185-pound Icon Sport title in July.
“We’re looking at February, but we still have to negotiate,” Thompson said.
Vitale controlled most of the first round, and nearly won it with a choke hold on Miller.
Vitale said he felt Miller “tap,” which is the signal to the referee that the fighter is submitting.
“I thought he was tapping, so I kind of let it go,” Vitale said. “That was my mistake.”
Referee Joe DeRobbio said: “Niko looked to me and said ‘he’s tapping,’ but I never saw a definitive tap. He never should have let (the choke hold) go unless I told him to, and I didn’t.”
Miller said he did not tap, and was not trying to trick Vitale into thinking it was a tap.
“I will sleep before I tap,” Miller said. “People who know me know that I never tap. I train with jiu-jitsu guys every day so I get out of chokes like that every day.”
In any case, Miller said that was the only break he needed.
“I went back to my corner after that first round and my coach told me I lost the round,” he said. “That made me want to fight even harder in the second round.”
Miller is 6-0 in Hawai’i, including victories over Vitale, Egan Inoue, and Ronald Jhun.
“I think it’s clear that he has his supporters here in Hawai’i,” Thompson said. “And he’s obviously a great fighter, so we’ll try to bring him back as much as possible.”