September 21, 2006

by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photo courtesy IFL/April Pishna)

In all team sports there is the inevitable question whether or not they can repeat as champions the fallowing season. Until the IFL debuted earlier this year there was no such question to be asked…until now.

A couple of months ago the Quad City Silverbacks, coached by MMA legend Pat Miletich, took the inaugural IFL Team Championship by defeating the Los Angeles Anacondas and the Seattle Tiger Sharks, coached by fellow legends Bas Rutten and Maurice Smith respectively.

With those wins comes the pressure of now doing that’s never been done before in MMA, repeat as team champions in what was decidedly an individual sport just last year.

Taking that first step towards repeating starts this weekend at the IFL’s debut event in Moline, Iowa as the Silverbacks take on the Renzo Gracie coached New York Pittbulls.

Now facing an eight-team field, double last season’s, the key to the Silverbacks success may rest in what usually works for teams in other sports.

Possibly the most important key to repeating is returning the bulk of the roster of the team that was successful the previous season. To this point the Silverbacks have adhered to the formula as nearly the same group of fighters that led the team to victory last year return again for Season 2.

Early indication of the importance of returning a majority of the team may be best evidenced by the IFL event earlier this month.

Rutten’s Anacondas only made only two changes to the active roster of fighters from last year and swept their five-fight series with Antonio Inoki’s Tokoyo Sabres. Conversely Smith’s Tiger Sharks had nearly an entire upheaval of talent – only returning one fighter – and lost three of five to Matt Lindland’s Portland Wolfpack.

The Silverbacks will be returning four of five fighters at Saturday’s event, and perhaps more importantly, the team also fallows another trend of success that was evident at this month’s earlier IFL event, training together on a regular basis.

All the members of Miletich’s team are regularly trained at his Davenport gym. Day in and day out the same guys in the same room along with Pat and other high-profile fighters from other promotions work together as a team, forging a bond as described by Silverbacks middleweight Rory Markham as, “a brotherhood.”

Last season the Anacondas were spread apart geographically and hardly trained together, thus were eliminated by the Silverbacks 3-2. Since the end of Season 1, Rutten’s squad has spent considerable time together, honing team chemistry which helped them to decisively eliminate the Sabers earlier this month.

Of course returning athletes and team chemistry are important, but that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have talent, which is something that the Silverbacks proved they had last year.

While young, Miletich’s team was far from inexperienced. The entire roster featured fighters that had at least ten fights by the end of Season 1 and all had a 75% winning percentage or better, something other teams couldn’t match.

So when all is said and done it appears that on paper the Silverbacks have everything they need to repeat as champions. However what works on paper isn’t always what works in the real world and with increasingly difficult competition – especially from the already victorious Wolfpack and Anacondas – it could be a much tougher haul this time around.

But as the Silverbacks showed last year, they are very much a reflection of their legendary coach Pat Miletich, they rise to a challenge presented them and they will give it their all, win or lose…IFL beware.