December is going to be an action-packed month for live mixed martial arts action with several intriguing matchups in store for fans.
However, one of the most intriguing matchups on the docket for next month is a welterweight encounter between King of the Cage and EliteXC veteran Thomas “Wildman” Denny and one of the greatest welterweights ever to compete in MMA, Pat Miletich.
Miletich was the first-ever welterweight champion in the history of the UFC and has compiled a 28-7-2 pro record over the course of a career that dates back to 1995.
A former standout high school athlete, Miletich took up fighting as a way to help support his mother, who was in poor health at the time. Through the years, the 40-year old has recorded notable victories over the likes of Mikey Burnett, Shonie Carter, John Alessio, Jorge Patino, and Chris Brennan.
During the peak of his fighting career, Miletich made the decision to start his own training center and curriculum known both as the Miletich Fighting Systems. Over the years, MFS has produced world champions such as Rich Franklin, Jens Pulver, Robbie Lawler, Matt Hughes, and Tim Sylvia. The MFS system will go down in history as one of the first philosophies to utilize cross-training methods in MMA.
After focusing most of his time on preparing his fighters, Miletich ended a four-year hiatus from competitive fighting on On Sept. 23, 2006. And Miletich did not take an easy fight in his comeback, opting to face fellow all-time great Renzo Gracie during an IFL event in Miletich’s home base of Moline, Illinois.
Still not fully healed from neck injuries that had forced him to leave active competition, Miletich was first to tap in the first round after getting caught in a standing guillotine. Miletich has not competed since the loss but will be returning on Thursday, Dec. 11 to headline against Denny in the main event of Adrenaline MMA’s second-ever show. Miletich’s anticipated return, which will once again emanate from Moline, will be televised live on HDNet.
During a recent break from training, Miletich took time out to speak about his upcoming return with FiveOuncesOfPain.com.
Sam Caplan: First let me say that it’s great to hear that you’ll be competing again. I also wanted to know how your neck is doing?
Pat Miletich: My neck is real solid. I’ve been sparring real hard and it’s been been holding up quite well, actually. I’ve had some procedures performed by several doctors and it’s holding up well.
Sam Caplan: I spoke with your manager, Monte Cox, earlier today and Monte said you’re in incredible shape. He said normally 170 is a tough cut for you but that you’re working so hard that you’re having trouble keeping weight on.
Pat Miletich: You know, once my metabolism sped up the weight just started coming off and I’ve just been trying to eat a lot to actually keep my weight up (laughs).
Sam Caplan: So are you actually going to be able to enjoy your Thanksgiving and not have to watch your weight?
Pat Miletich: I’m going to eat a lot for Thanksgiving. I’m going to try and eat smart but we’re going to have a two and a half hour practice on Thursday morning — the whole team. And I should have worked off enough weight to sit down and have a nice Thanksgiving dinner with the family.
Sam Caplan: How long had you been considering coming back to fight?
Pat Miletich: Basically, the day after I fought Renzo, to be honest with you. We’ll see how this fight goes with Thomas Denny. Thomas is a tough guy but if I get through this fight okay and win against Thomas (then) I’d love to do that again with Renzo.
Sam Caplan: When you lost to Renzo, did you tap from the choke, or the tension being applied to your neck?
Pat Miletich: Well, I had re-injured the neck about ten days away from the fight and at that point there had just been so much publicity and TV stuff that I went ahead and did it. I thought that I’d be fine and I thought that I’d be able to stop his takedowns without a problem and just keep wearing him out and hitting him with shots. And you know, he was smart about it. Once he realized he wasn’t going to take me down he jumped for the guillotine and got it and did a good job. The neck, I was fine for awhile, and then the neck just wore out. It got tired and it just sunk in eventually.
I didn’t want to go to the ground either because the core muscles that tie into your legs all the way into your abdomen, I had injured those muscles as well. So my core was destroyed and I couldn’t even pull guard if I had wanted to (laughs). But I just had to stand there and try to ride out the clock. It was a weird situation; it was a combination of a couple of injuries and Renzo Gracie having an incredible guillotine. It wasn’t a good combo.
Sam Caplan: You haven’t competed for two years since that fight and I wanted to know if you consider the time away a brief retirement or simply a hiatus?
Pat Miletich: I had other things going on, to be honest with you. I’m not done competing. I enjoy it too much. I love it a lot. I love the adrenaline and the crowd and everything else. It’s too fun to just walk away from it. I want to be able to say when I’m done that it was my body was telling me (to retire). I guess I am just hard headed and I’ll keep running my head into a brick wall until it’s time to quit.
Sam Caplan: Renzo has a new documentary out entitled Renzo Gracie: Legacy and it’s really amazing. Your IFL fight with him was depicted during the course of the film and there was also a brief scene at your gym leading up the fight. During the scene, you compare Renzo to his cousins and you talked about how he never ducked opponents like some of his relatives. Could I get you to elaborate on that?
Pat Miletich: Well, my thing is no disrespect to any of the Gracies on the other side of the family. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here; you wouldn’t have a job and I wouldn’t have been fighting. I’d be doing who knows what? So all the respect to those guys; Royce and Rickson and that whole side of the family — Royler and everybody.
But Renzo is a guy that… he really treats everybody with a lot of respect. He’s a warrior and he’s fought anybody and everybody that has come up against him. He never turns down a fight. And that really earns my respect, just the way he carries himself and the way he’ll fight anybody. He’s a warrior so I have a lot of respect for him.
Sam Caplan: You stated in this interview that if things go well against Thomas Denny that you’d be interested in a rematch with Renzo. If you’re able to get past Denny, how active would you like to be after Dec. 11?
Pat Miletich: We’ll see how I feel. We’ll see how everything goes with Thomas and we’ll take one fight at a time. I look at the top ten rankings and I think there’s quite a few of those guys that I can beat right now (laughs). We’ll see how I can do against Thomas but I feel very confident in my skills.
Sam Caplan: Are there any names in the top ten that you feel you can beat that you’d like to identify on the record?
Pat Miletich: Nah, no reason for that. But I can see some guys that have a lot weaknesses in their games and I think I would do quite well with many of them.
Sam Caplan: You’ve always been known as a no-nonsense type of guy. Your opponent on Dec. 11, Thomas Denny, is a showman and is one part pro fighter and another part pro wrestler. I know that Nick Diaz had a real problem with Denny wearing pink trunks and painting his toenails during their July 26 CBS bout in Stockton. What do you think of Denny as an opponent?
Pat Miletich: I think Thomas is a well-rounded guy. I think he’s tough and he’s had some wars. Everybody is an individual. If he wants to dye his hair and paint his nails, then more power to him. But for me, I’ve always just been a guy, who, I’ll always make my money by winning fights. And that was really important to me. I wasn’t a guy who trash talked people and tried to make a show out of it. I just wanted to go out and win a fight and keep it simple.
Thomas and I get along well. He’s a nice guy. He’s fun to talk to and stuff. I have no problem with him doing whatever he does. Hell, if it sells more tickets, then great. So more power to him.
Sam Caplan: What attracted you to Thomas Denny stylistically as an opponent because he can be very dangerous? What made you want to take this fight?
Pat Miletich: Monte told me that was who I was fighting and so I said ‘okay’ (laughs). You know, that wasn’t somebody that I asked for or anything like that at all. As far as Thomas’ style goes, I mean he’s a pretty unpredictable guy. He’ll throw high kicks and back elbows and then the next thing you know he’s shooting for a takedown. He’s pretty well-rounded and he’s not afraid to take the fight anywhere so I am definitely going to have to be on my toes with him.
Sam Caplan: MFS has a lot of top guys such as Tim Sylvia, Ben Rothwell, L.C. Davis, and Drew McFedries. Can you talk about some of the next generation of fighters that are coming up through the program?
Pat Miletich: Obviously our first generation of champions and pay-per-view guys were a bunch of studs. They were great fighters but I really honestly think that this second generation of guys are better and more well-rounded.
L.C. Davis is a great wrestler who has improved his ground game immensely and can strike like a professional boxer.
Romiro “Junior” Hernandez is probably the best boxer that I’ve ever seen in MMA and his ground game is ridiculously good.
Ben Rothwell is finally starting to figure things out. He’s a young guy that already has a lot of fights under his belt. He’s changed his style a lot and is looking a lot better.
Mike Ciesnolevicz’s ground game is way better than before, even when he was already submitting everyone and his standup skills have really come a long way also.
And Ryan McGivern, the guy is just a machine. After this next fight he plans on dropping to 170 and I’ll tell you what, that’s a scary ’70 pounder. When he goes down to 170 he’s going to be throwing some people around.
Sam Caplan: A lot of people consider Anderson Silva to be the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world today. Do you agree with that assessment?
Pat Miletich: I would say it’s probably between he, Georges St. Pierre, and Fedor. Fedor is a sick, scary guy. He’s super impressive. Georges is an incredible athlete and very well-rounded. Anderson has been fighting for a long, long time. He’s been around forever.
In his fight vs. Cote, a lot of people were complaining about the way he was dancing around and moving and stuff like that. But you know, that just shows how good he is, to be honest with you. How he was just moving and confusing Cote and having fun with him out there. There are not a whole lot of guys that can do that with Cote and to me, that was just very impressive.
Sam Caplan: Brock Lesnar recently defeated Randy Couture for the UFC heavyweight title and I wanted to get your thoughts on the fight since you know Lesnar better than most being that he has spent some time at MFS in the past. Are you surprised that Brock is the heavyweight champ so soon?
Pat Miletich: I think every logical thinking person who knows MMA was betting Lesnar would win. Brock is an incredible athlete that moves incredibly well for a big man. You can tell he is still has a lot to learn, but his pure physical size, strength, wrestling ability and speed made it a very tough matchup for Randy. I have learned not to bet against Randy, but Couture not having the ability to out-wrestle someone makes it a very tough fight.
Having said this I feel he has been thrown into deep water a bit to soon. Big Nog, Fedor, Josh Barnett, Andre Arlovski, Rothwell, etc… all would be likely to beat Brock at this point in his carreer. If I were a top ranked heavyweight I would jump in line now though, as I think he’s going to be tough to beat with more experience.
Sam Caplan: Since the IFL shut down, it seems like your profile with the World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts has increased. Can you talk about what your day-to-day responsibilities are with the organization?
Pat Miletich: My focus is obviously help be a link between Mike Lynch and Dave Szady, who are the executives for the company, that are the head of the company. I’m there to assist them with relationships with the promoters and the fighters and help advise them as an experienced person in the MMA world what route I think is best for the organization. Them being above me in the company, the decision is ultimately going to be their’s whether they think I am correct or not in my judgments on things.
They’re great guys that care a lot about the sport. They’re big fans of the sport and I think the WAMMA belt represents more than just a belt. It represents the fighters’ freedom, a fighter’s solidarity, and a fighter’s right to be known as the true number one guy in the world. As fans and athletes, people need to understand and grasp that huge idea that the WAMMA belt stands and realize that that’s going to give fighters that freedom that they deserve and not be held down in organizations and by organizations almost as captives.