Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Bill Barnwell talks to the IFL head coach about Corey Hill, Matt Hughes, and how not to lose.

December 19, 2007 - If you were to try and find the greatest mixed martial arts gym in the brief history of MMA, chances are, you'd be going through Bettendorf, Iowa. Miletich Fighting Systems' gyms have spread across the country, but its original gym in Bettendorf is where you'll find Pat Miletich, former UFC Welterweight Champion and, arguably, the best coach in MMA history.

Now the coach of the IFL's Quad City Silverbacks, who will becoming a Miletich-specific team with the IFL's move to camp-based teams as opposed to cities, Miletich's protégés include former UFC champions Matt Hughes, Jens Pulver, and Tim Sylvia. Hughes recently left the camp to start his own gym closer to home, which has led to some speculation that the legendary Miletich gym, the only one to ever be featured with its own UFC pay-per-view, might cease to be the powerhouse it's been for a decade.

IGN spoke to Miletich and discussed December 29th's IFL World Grand Prix in Connecticut, the status of Corey Hill, and his thoughts on Hughes leaving his camp.

IGN: How do you feel about the IFL's switch to camp-based teams as opposed to city-based ones?

Pat: I think it's gonna work much better. I think [the IFL] giving themselves the opportunity to work with athletes from a lot of different camps is the most important thing. Being able to sign fighters from wherever they come from is much better.

IGN: Pound-for-pound, who do you think is the best fighter in the IFL at the moment?

Pat: You know, there's a lot of tough guys. I'm not gonna make any calls on that, there's a lot of guys. Nobody ever stands out to me in any organization, everyone's tough.

IGN: Any news on Ben Rothwell and the possibility that he might return to the IFL?

Pat: You know, I'm not sure what he's gonna do. Monte Cox is waiting for the end of the year for Ben's contract to run out. I'm out of the loop on that, I just train him.

IGN: Rory Markham and LC Davis are the Silverbacks fighting on the Grand Prix show December 29th. How are they looking, training and injury-wise?

Pat: In great shape, both of them are looking great in training. They're ready to go.

IGN: Markham's opponent, Brett Cooper, is making his debut on the IFL stage, and is a somewhat unheralded fighter. Is it difficult to prepare for those sort of fighters?

Pat: I think it can be tougher. We know a little about him, he's pretty well-rounded, pretty tough. Sometimes when I fought in the early days, I was glad I didn't see them on tape. There were guys who I'd watch on film after I fought them and I'd be scared! You've got really plan well and train for a guy who's good at everything. Obviously, you'd like to study for people, but in the case of Rory's opponent, we can't do that as much.

IGN: What do you think is the most important thing you instill in your fighters?

Pat: Just the work you do in the gym is what wins the fight. Fights are not won in the ring, they're won in the gym. It's an old Dan Gable saying. It's human tendency look for an easy way to do things, but nothing replaces hard work. The guys who understand that tend to become world champions.

IGN: Over the last decade, there have been periods where certain camps have seemed unbeatable, whether it be the Miletich camp, Greg Jackson's camp, or now, Xtreme Couture. Why do you think that is?

Pat: Things go in cycles. The intensity level that this sport demands can suck energy out of an entire group of guys. You go through ups and downs. When you get on a roll, that's contagious, and you do well, but when you have guys that start to lose, then people start to doubt themselves. You can see it happen if someone loses, those guys suck it up and train harder, and guys become stronger and better fast. For us, 2005 was not a great year by any means, and 2006 was a really good year, but then 2007 was a tougher year. 2004 and 2006 were the best years we had; 2005, everyone was saying my team was done, and 2006 we came back and won everything. It goes in cycles. It's tough to stay at the top.
IGN: Who do you think is the fighter in your camp that's off most MMA fans' radar screens, but has the most potential for future success?

Pat: Corey Hill.

IGN: Oh, from Ultimate Fighter…

Pat: Well, you know, he wasn't 100% truthful to get on the show, so he went in there absolutely knowing nothing about Jens Pulver or me or Jeremy Horn. It's funny because Corey Hill looks at me now and says "You were a World Champion?" And I say "Yeah, I held the title for three, three and a half years", and he says "No kidding." He doesn't know a lot about the sport, but his boxing, kicking, his submission stuff, his positional stuff, he's working on all that, and his wrestling ability and his ability to take people down when he wants to do is unreal. I don't know any 155-pounders out there who could take him down.

IGN: Really? Not even Sean Sherk?

Pat: Sean Sherk would have a lot of real trouble taking down Corey Hill, mark my words.

IGN: Wow.

Pat: There are wrestlers that are tough and ready for this sport, and he's one of the best. He's a rottweiler. No one else has that body type. He's got wide shoulders and a waist like my wife's.

Besides him, LC Davis is fighting for the 145-pound title, he's popping on the scene, everyone knows about Rockwell, Ryan McGivern is just coming into his own, Rory Markham's working a lot on his ground game, there's a lot of guys who have serious potential.

IGN: What were the circumstances that led to Matt Hughes, Robbie Lawler, and Matt Pena leaving to form their own camp?

Pat: Money. Money was one of the more motivating factors. They were offered money from a sports agent to start a facility down there using Matt's name. He's been commuting from Hillsborough, which is 3.5 hours away, and he's got kids and a family, so it's not been easy. I couldn't do it, I know that much. He decided that it was time for him and his family and his career to start up a new place closer to him to allow him to train for fights and see his family. I don't blame him.

IGN: Was it unexpected?

Pat: Not necessarily unexpected, they came to me, told me about it, told me they were working on it, and I said "Awesome, do what you gotta do."

In the end, look at Dan Gable. Growing up in Iowa, we all idolized him -- everyone who wrestled across the country idolized him.; but, probably the greatest tribute to Gable is the fact that he has so many guys that were under him who are wrestling coaches that are major colleges across the country. Iowa used to be a national power and now, there are teams that can compete with Iowa.

As I sit in the twilight of my career and I think about the guys I've trained and who have moved on to start coaching, the Matt Hughes' and Jeremy Horn's and Jens Pulver's, I'm sad to see all of them go, I'd love to see it be status quo forever, but nothing ever stays the same, and that's just the way it goes.

IGN: You visited Afghanistan in July, correct? What was that like?

Pat: We went to a couple different forward operating bases, spent some time with them, did some training, hung out with them, just thoroughly enjoyed it and saw what those guys are going through first hand and told them how all the people back home are thinking about them. Every one of them thanked us for coming, but as I was shaking their hand, they had no idea how much it meant to come over and spend time with them and how much we respect them. It's tough to think that they're spending 15 months at a time there, and I spent a week there, and I'll tell you what, to have to spend a year there… they are at the top of my shelf when it comes to respect.

IGN: Do you have any interest in having another fight, or is your neck precluding you from fighting again?

Pat: I've had some offers, but I haven't been able to make the time for it yet. The thing is, everything else in my life departs when I fight, and it'd have to be an offer that's a smart financial move for me. For example, the IFL said they would pay to get my neck fixed, and I haven't even had the chance to get it fixed yet.
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