by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com (Photos courtesy of IFL/April Pishna)
On September 23rd, “The Croatian Sensation,” Pat Miletich, returned to mixed martial arts competition in the International Fight League (IFL) pitted against Renzo Gracie.
On an evening that saw his star pupil, UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes, successfully defend his title, and his IFL team, The Quad City Silverbacks, come away with another team victory, Miletich’s comeback bout ended in disappointment.
Miletich spoke with MMAWeekly following the event about the fight, the loss, and his future.
Asked, “How was it being back in there again, despite the result?” Miletich answered, “You know what? It was satisfying just to be able to be back in there to be honest with you, to be healthy enough to climb back in there. I went over a lot of hurdles, and without my wife supporting me and taking care of everything for me it wouldn’t have been able to happen; I can tell you that.”
Miletich entered the ring just moments after IFL CEO Gareb Shamus announced to the crowd that Matt Hughes defeated BJ Penn by TKO in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The pro-Miletich crowd erupted in cheers. As Pat came out, the response was overwhelming.
Questioned about his reception from the spectators, Miletich said, “It was awesome. It was awesome. I was very happy to bring a show of this magnitude to the Quad Cities because they’ve been very loyal fans to the team.”
Miletich looked comfortable and poised as the opening bell sounded signaling the start of the fight. Discussing the bout, Pat commented, “When he shot in on my legs the first time he was in deep. I was able to battle that out and stuff his takedown. I think that after that he realized he wasn’t going to take me down, so he just went for broke.”
Renzo was able to sink in a Guillotine Choke and jump to guard with Miletich standing near the ropes. “He just inched his arm a little bit over my head and left it there. I had control of his hand, and I was stopping it. And then I felt safe, and like a fool I let go of his hand, and that is when he locked it up. I didn’t think that he thought he had anything to be honest with you,” Miletich told MMAWeekly.
He further stated, “I knew that he wanted to go for a submission. I knew that was his game and stuff. And by pushing into him into the ropes I kind of played into it a little bit. He did a great job. He stuck with that submission for how long? How long did he have me in that?”
Gracie worked the submission for well over a minute before securing it enough to force Miletich to tap.
Asked the inevitable question, “Do you have anymore fights in you?” Pat responded, “More than likely I’m done. Like I said, for me, I made a goal to get back in and fight, and fight a big name guy. I don’t want to go in and fight a guy just so I can get a victory. I don’t want to fight a tomato can. That, to me, is not challenging myself. It’s kind of a waste. It’s like, why should I be climbing a hill when I should be climbing a mountain?”
As previously mentioned, Matt Hughes fought the same night across the country in California in the UFC. Usually Miletich would be cornering Hughes, or Hughes would be cornering Pat. The conflict of schedule prevented the usual from occurring.
Posed with the question, “What was it like not being there; knowing he was fighting with the UFC welterweight belt on the line?” Miletich said, “It was tough not being there, but it was tougher not having him in my corner to be honest with you… he and I have been together for so long. It would have been nice to have him there.”
Jens Pulver, another Team Miletich fighter, also competed on the UFC card that night, losing in the first round by TKO to Joe Lauzon. Questioned, “What upset you more, Jens Pulver getting knocked out, or your loss to Renzo Gracie?” Pat answered, “They’re both obviously upsetting. It’s bad for Jens. Jens is a better fighter than that. It is sad because that was his coming home party also in the UFC.”
With Pat Miletich’s fighting career most likely over, he has shifted his focus to being a trainer and coach.
His led IFL Silverbacks went 3-2 in team competition, advancing that much closer to repeat as IFL team champions. Asked, “Has that become your new goal?” Miletich said, “Yeah. I’m excited. I think now that I am back to coaching, sharpen the team up and make sure we win the championship. That is definitely my goal.”