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Seeking Greatness: The Continuing Journey of Pat Miletich

The date will be December 11—a night exactly two weeks after a national holiday aimed at celebrating thanks and gratitude, and exactly two weeks prior to the day where lavish gift-giving is the norm.

As night falls on this date to come, certainly it will be MMA fans who are once again filled with thanks as the special gift of watching a legend return to action will be given to all, when famed fighter and trainer, Pat Miletich steps into the cage once again to fight Thomas Denny within the Adrenaline MMA promotion, showing live on HDNet (Thursday, 10 p.m.).

“In my heart I never left it, you know what I mean?” Miletich says, explaining his two year break from the fight game as being just that. “I just had to take breaks, physically, to get some things done to my body to make sure that I was going to be safe and healthy doing it [fighting].”

‘Some things’ of course, refers to nurturing a mending neck, as Miletich’s cervical vertebrae have taken quite a beaten in his thirty seven professional fights, or three less than his age heading into this bout.

And age, of course, is something that might also be on the minds of fans when it comes to Pat’s return, especially considering the recent felling of Randy Couture in his long-awaited return to the Octagon. Despite the loss, Couture still remains a fighter who epitomizes the concept that age is just a number, even to equally-regarded fighters, such as Miletich himself.

“It’s always inspirational to see someone like Randy,” Miletich says, sincerely. “At his age, he’s doing so well. He’s doing an incredible job, and it’s kind of nice to see an older guy kicking the hell out the younger guys, you know?”

He laughs, perhaps knowing that he too is no longer the young fighter that lives within his own heart. But don’t be so sure that vigor or athleticism is fading from the arsenal of “The Croatian Sensation” just yet.

“I’ve been doing a lot of running, a lot of grappling, a lot of hitting pads and sparring to get my endurance and strength back up to where it used to be,” Miletich said of his pre-fight training. “I’ve been doing everything that I put my guys through. The workout called ‘The Fighter’s Wife,’ which makes a lot of people puke and stuff like that, I’ve been doing that religiously.”

This particular workout, a high intensity circuit blending punishing cardio work with muscle-burning weight training, is called “The Fighter’s Wife,” due to the euphemism it provides—the workout is “a bitch,” to those who know so firsthand. Miletich continues, giving insight to just how prepared he is for his upcoming showdown.

“You know a lot of people do ‘The Fighter’s Wife’ in about 45 minutes. I’m doing it in about 23 minutes. The fastest anyone has done it was about eighteen and a half minutes and that was Ryan McGivern, who’s probably the best conditioned fighter I’ve ever seen in my life.”

But conditioning is only half the battle in the proving grounds of MMA, and Pat Miletich has been taking special care to break down the opponent he has in Denny, and prepare for him, specifically.

“To a certain extent [Denny] is somewhat unorthodox with how he throws combos and moves, so that’s something I’ve been studying a lot,” says Miletich, in a knowing voice. “I’m focusing on getting down his timing and noticing the little things he likes to do before throwing a certain technique so that I know what’s coming. [I’ve been working on] making sure I’m getting out the way and countering real quick and making him step backwards instead of me stepping backwards.”

Finished talking strategy, Pat follows up with ceremonial and respectful commentary about his opponent—something typical of MMA fighters, in particular.

“I think [Denny’s] a tough guy and he has a lot of experience,” says Miletich. “He has, what, 47 fights probably at least. He’s the type of fighter to bring the fight to you—he’ll roll the dice and get after it. That’s a guy that’ll make me wake up real quick in a fight and get after it.”

But maybe one can only remain formal for so long, as Miletich once again returns to talking tactics, but with a humorous twist.

“[Thomas Denny] likes to throw elbows too, and I don’t like getting cut,” says Miletich, matter-of-factly. “So right when those elbows start coming, I’m gonna make sure that he eats a few back, and then I’ll put him on his back and then (laughs) he’ll be eating a lot of elbows if he’s hitting me with a lot of them standing up (laughs).”

Of course, leave it up to a tough-ass like Pat Miletich to showcase his easygoing temperament whilst discussing skull-bound elbows coming from a man whose last fight was a semi-grudge match with Nick Diaz on national TV.

But since there are no hard feelings between Miletich and Denny, one might ask how this matchup came to fruition in the first place.

Monte Cox (the owner of Adrenaline MMA) thought it’d be an interesting fight,” Miletich explains. “After watching Denny and Diaz go at in on CBS, you know, Thomas early on looked pretty dang good. I think he just got tired from cutting down to 160, but he was giving Diaz plenty until he got tired.”

Miletich continues on with his straight-shooting, explaining exactly why he has chosen to fight in Adrenaline MMA without first considering any bigger promotions, especially given the large pull his name exhibits over fight fans.

“Monte and I have been friends since we started in the sport together, and I’m happy to be able to do a show with him again,” the first-ever UFC welterweight champion began. “There have to be more big shows out there so that fighters have choices. Everybody on the planet understands that and appreciates that fact I would hope, but obviously I don’t think Dana White really wants that. But it’s a fact that it has to be that way [for the good of the sport]. I want these guys (fighters) to be able to go out and make a living.”

And it is with that statement that Miletich makes it clear that he will always be tied to the sport of mixed martial arts, whether it be as a fighter, a coach, or as an ambassador for all. But as all things go with the likes of Pat Miletich, you can’t count him out with anything, even when it comes to assertions that a title belt may loom on the horizon of his fighting future, once again.

“When I look at some of the top ten guys in the world right now,” Miletich says, “I feel that I can hang with or beat a lot of those guys right now. So why not get back in there?”

Miletich once again ends his thought with the confident laugh of someone who’s seen it all—and maybe knows it all, too. So whereas the future is unwritten and no one truly knows what it holds for the likes of Pat Miletich, one thing, and one thing only, is for certain: This will be one holiday season that hardcore fight fans will not soon forget.

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