Pat Miletich’s recent induction into the UFC Hall of Fame is long overdue. Only a feud with UFC president Dana White over TUF 3 delayed his entry, and the legendary coach, fighter and commentator has now joined the illustrious list of competitors that includes Randy Couture, Royce Gracie, Chuck Liddell and his former pupil, Matt Hughes.
Born in Iowa in 1966, Miletich wrestled in high school in the city that would eventually become the home of his all-conquering gym, Bettendorf. A lifelong wrestler, Miletich was honoured by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in their first-ever nod to MMA back in 2011.
Like most Iowans, Pat began wrestling at a young age. Miletich’s high school program also produced Mark Kerr, who would go on to win back to back Heavyweight tournaments in the UFC one year prior to Miletich’s debut inside the octagon.
Pat also trained in Shuri-ryū Karate and spurred on by his former Olympic boxer uncle, also trained in boxing and kickboxing. Unable to continue his wrestling career into college due to financial commitments, Miletich began his fighting career in 1995.
Needing to pay his mother’s medical bills, ‘The Croatian Sensation’ entered a one-night tournament in Chicago named ‘Battle of the Masters’. It was a ‘no holds barred’ competition, populated with fighters from a mix of disciplines. Miletich, who at this point had his Karate black belt and a few years of Jiu-Jitsu to go with his wrestling stood alone as one of the first true mixed martial artists.
Pat Militech in The UFC
Pat won all three fights via rear-naked choke, and with it took home the paycheck. He told MMA Fighting in their ‘My First Fight’ series “I needed the money worse than any of those guys”. He was back a few months later to win their second tournament and would go 15-0 before running into fellow future top coach Matt Hume. Nonetheless, Miletich entered another one-night tournament, this time in the UFC.
He would decision Olympic wrestler Townsend Saunders before submitting Chris Brennan, a man he had fought twice before, to become the winner.
Although the money wasn’t flowing, Pat Miletich was becoming a major name in the dark days of Mixed Martial Arts. A short return to the independent circuit that included a draw with Dan Severn came before a chance to fight for the inaugural UFC Welterweight championship.
Miletich decisioned tough Oklahoman Mikey Burnett at UFC Ultimate Brazil to claim the belt, and would go on to defend it against the likes of Jorge Patino, Andre Pederneiras and John Alessio. It was Carlos Newton who would eventually end his reign, pulling off something of a Hail Mary submission in the third round.
After a head kick knockout of Shonie Carter in his next fight, Miletich was again the #1 contender, however after his protégé, Matt Hughes knocked out his conqueror Carlos Newton, Pat made the decision to move up a division. A loss to Matt Lindland saw him decide to focus on coaching and brought the Miletich name to the forefront of the sport once again.
Miletich Fighting Systems Stable of Fighters
As the head coach of MFS – Miletich Fighting Systems, Pat Miletich put together the number one fight camp in all of MMA. As Dana White pointed out when he announced Miletich’s Hall of Fame induction, MFS had “almost all the champions” when Zuffa bought the company. Miletich trained inaugural UFC middleweight champion Dave Menne, former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver, two time UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia as well as fellow UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes.
Also fighting out of MFS were Spencer Fisher, Jeremy Horn and a young, up and coming Robbie Lawler. This was a time before the rise of Greg Jackson, before American Top Team, before the Blackzilians and before Firas Zahabi. Although it may seem hard to believe for anybody new to the sport, for the longest time fight camps were somewhat of an afterthought for fans; and sometimes for the fighters.
This was changed by the Chute Boxe – Brazilian Top Team rivalry in Brazil when fighters from the two top camps were regularly doing battle in the sport’s leading promotions. In the US, however, it was still largely a single-discipline world. This was changed by MFS, which at the turn of the century was the premier camp in the country.
Whilst today the relative merits of hard sparring is a hotly debated topic, back in the early 2000’s it was widely accepted that ‘gym wars’ were the way to go. And Bettendorf Iowa was the undisputed home of it. Stories of the likes of Matt Hughes and Jens Pulver beating one another senseless were famous and led to countless professional MMA fighters flocking to the Midwest to experience Pat Miletich’s philosophy first hand.
Pat Miletich JUSTIFIED HIS REASONING FOR FIGHTLAND VICE, when he said,
“Let me give you a little perspective of why we trained so hard and why I did things the way I did. In my first amateur kickboxing match, I broke my right forearm in the middle of the fight in the first round, actually—I hit the guy with a spinning back fist and shattered my forearm.
I finished the fight with a broken arm, and I got tired because I was a bit panicked. I got exhausted during the fight, I lost a split decision, but I came away from that thinking to myself, “I never wanna be tired in a fight again.” I made sure my training was so intense that I could never get exhausted in a fight, and I could never lose because I was tired.”
Combining the Martial Arts in Training
The hard sparring philosophy was something being figured out all over the world, from Rudimar Fedrigo in Brazil, to Bas Rutten in Europe. Pat Miletich though, was the first trainer to not only combine multi-disciplines and attract experts from each of them; he was also the first trainer to combine all of this with a real focus on cardio and strength and conditioning. Miletich’s success opened up new opportunities.
A coaching gig on innovative team-based MMA organisation the IFL followed, where Miletich coached the Quad City Silverbacks, featuring the likes of Josh Neer and Jake Ellenberger. Although short-lived, the IFL also offered Miletich a return to fighting. A submission loss to fellow team-coach Renzo Gracie came in 2006, and two years later Pat ended his fighting career with a knockout victory over journeyman Thomas Denny.
A career in broadcasting followed, with Miletich serving as the commentator for the UFC’s largest competitor for many years, Strikeforce, prior to the Zuffa takeover in 2011. Pat’s commentary received rave reviews by fans and fellow commentators, with even UFC counterpart Joe Rogan complimenting him. Miletich developed a reputation as an expert at explaining the sport’s complexities to the layman as Strikeforce expanded to a mainstream audience.
He has developed his commentary into his new role at Lion Fights, the Muay Thai promotion where he joins Michael Schiavello in the booth. Pat has gained plaudits for his no-nonsense style and willingness, to be honest when needed.
With his induction into the Hall of Fame recently, Pat Miletich has patched up any rifts with Dana White. Although harking back to a previous point of view of the UFC president, perhaps the Iowan is proof that being a paranoid lunatic is a recipe for success.
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