Based on how they act around one another, you wouldn't know Jason (Mayhem) Miller and Jake Shields were mere weeks away from hitting each other in the face.
The two are set to fight at "Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers" on Nov. 7. However, they couldn't help but joke around on the media conference call.
"We're cool, but it's not like we're great friends," Shields said. "We've hung out a few times and we get along with each other, but it's not like we talk on the phone or anything."
"You're breaking my heart," Miller jokingly interrupted. "I thought we were best friends! I thought we had a pact!"
"I like Mayhem," Shields continued, "but I will have no problem punching him in the face."
The two will battle in the co-main event to crown a new Strikeforce middleweight titleholder on the show, which is headlined by a match between the world's top-ranked heavyweight, Fedor Emelianenko, and undefeated Brett Rogers. The belt was vacated when champion Cung Le stepped down to pursue a movie career.
Though both men want nothing more than to put their opponent away and take home the strap, it's still purely business.
"It all comes down to competition," Miller said. "I think it's very strange for the common reporter to understand that we're trying to hurt each other as bad as we can in those 25 minutes inside the cage, but afterwards we can be buddies."
"But hey, if the media wants us to, we can hate each other -- so f--k you, Jake."
Miller (22-6), a charismatic submission fighter who is known for his elaborate entrances, holds wins over tough opponents like Denis Kang, Tim Kennedy and Robbie Lawler. His only UFC appearance saw him lose a decision to now welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 52.
Miller also hosts MTV's "Bully Beatdown" -- a game show where bullies face professional mixed martial arts fighters in kickboxing and grappling matches for a chance to win $10,000.
Shields (23-4-1) -- a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt under Cesar Gracie, who is currently riding a 12-fight win streak -- has made three appearances on the program. On one occasion, a tormentor named Randall walked away with $5,000 when Shields was unable to knock him out in the kickboxing round.
Miller was amused when asked if he would watch the episode to prepare for the fight with Shields.
"Yeah, I think there are some definite holes in his game that I saw on 'Bully Beatdown,'" Miller said laughing. "I'm so glad I had him on the show."
Though Shields is considered by some to be the favourite to win, he isn't taking Miller lightly.
"I think Jason's a great opponent," Shields said. "It will be an exciting non-stop fight...for the fans.
"I'm just trying to get through Mayhem right now. I know there's a lot of other guys Strikeforce has -- they've got Ronaldo (Jacare) Souza and Tim Kennedy. They've also got (Frank) Shamrock and Cung Le, but those guys aren't interested in fighting any top 10 opponents."
Known for his fight anywhere, anytime attitude, Miller isn't bothered by being seen as an underdog in the fight. To him, this is just another bout.
"I don't think at this stage in my career that I'm going to be worried about anything," Miller said. "Those days are far behind me -- to be overly excited because everyone is watching me.
"I'm what you call a 'bar fighter.' I could pretty much step off my bar stool and go five five-minute rounds."