by Al Yu, MMAWeekly.com
After many years away from competition, legendary fighter and trainer Pat Miletich will come out of retirement to face Renzo Gracie at this weekend’s IFL show. Last June, “The Croatian Sensation” led his Silverbacks to victory and captured the first team championship in the IFL’s inaugural season. The former UFC welterweight champion recently took time out of his busy schedule to speak to MMAWeekly’s SoundOff Radio.
Coming from the renown Gracie family, Renzo Gracie is a PRIDE veteran and a very talented Brazilian jiujitsu practitioner.
“He’s just a guy with a lot of heart and a lot of great technique on the ground. He’s very tricky and very skilled. Standing up, he’ll go crazy with you,” said Pat regarding his opponent. “…He’s very fluent with his submissions and one mistake can cost me the fight. I have to stay focused on him, I’m not thinking about anything else.”
As the founder of Miletich Fighting Systems, Pat trains some of the best fighters in the business including Robbie Lawler, Tim Sylvia, and the current UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes. In addition to the IFL’s show, UFC 63 is also scheduled for this Saturday and will be headlined by a rematch between BJ Penn and Matt Hughes. Due to the conflicting schedule, this will mark the first time that Miletich will be absent from Matt Hughes’ corner.
“The cool thing about it is we all prepared for the same date,” said Miletich. “Our preparation has been great and the training camp has been very intense. Matt is going to be well taken care of. My thoughts and prayers will be with all of those guys.”
BJ Penn is the last person to defeat Matt Hughes. The highly anticipated rematch is arguably the biggest and most important fight of Hughes’ successful career. Having trained together for each of their respective fights, Pat was very confident about Matt’s abilities and offered a bit of his insight.
“It’s a big fight no matter when and who Matt fights. Anybody that fights Matt has to bring their ‘A’ game. I think BJ’s in trouble this time, I really do,” commented Miletich. “Matt is in incredible shape right now. It seems like he gets stronger and in better shape every fight. I think it’s going to be a bad night for BJ.”
“I totally expect Matt to win this fight,” added the former champion.
This Saturday’s UFC event marks the return of former UFC lightweight champion and Miletich Fighting Systems member Jens “Little Evil” Pulver. Jens last fought at UFC 35 where he defended his title successfully against BJ Penn. Pulver left the organization after contractual disputes and resumed his career overseas.
“I’m happy for Jens. I’m happy for a fighter that’s doing what he wants to do. As soon as he came back to the states and fought in the IFL, the UFC wanted him. It’s great that the IFL has caused the UFC to start snatching fighters up that they want and start paying them the right amount of money.”
Prior to the start of the IFL’s second season, four new teams and coaches were announced. Leading the Toronto Dragons is former UFC welterweight champion Carlos Newton. At UFC 31, Newton upset defending champion Miletich to earn that distinction. Fans and experts have speculated about a potential rematch between the two in the future.
“I haven’t even thought about that to be honest with you. Nothing haunts me about prior losses or anything like that. For me, this fight with Renzo…is about me overcoming an injury that all the doctors told me I couldn’t come back from,” responded Miletich. “I’ve come back, I feel great, and I’m in as good of shape as I’ve ever been. It’s my mind overcoming my body and that’s an accomplishment in itself. The next thing I have to do is go out and beat Renzo and then I’ll start thinking about what’s next.”
Now that “The Croatian Sensation” is out of retirement, is he back for good?
“I’m taking it day by day. We’ll see how I perform and how I feel out there. I haven’t fought for several years…I may go out, be flat as hell and not be able to fight a lick. I’m interested to find out myself. I’m pretty confident that I’ll perform well and then we’ll decide the next morning and see how I feel.”