Matt Hughes (Pictures) won probably the most hyped UFC event ever. Tim Sylvia (Pictures) pulled off an incredible upset of the “unbeatable” Andrei Arlovski (Pictures). Miletich’s Silverbacks team won the championship in the inaugural IFL tournament on Fox Sports Net, a promotion that is off to a very promising start. His affiliate schools are popping up like Starbucks. He’s launching a new fight promotion company. Oh, and he’s making a comeback against Renzo Gracie (Pictures).
In a Sherdog.com exclusive, Pat sat down to discuss his plans.
Sherdog.com: Congratulations. Your guys have been on an incredible roll lately. Never mind Matt — have you recovered yet from Tim’s win?
Pat Miletich (Pictures): Both of them were incredible fights. We’re really happy with Tim showing as much heart as he did. We expected him to win — we just didn’t expect the emotional rollercoaster of getting dropped, then getting back up, and then putting Arlovski down. That was definitely an emotional rollercoaster. And the tension with Matt’s fight with Royce was big and Spencer Fisher (Pictures) performed incredibly well also.
Sherdog.com: We heard that Tim’s effort in preparing for Andrei Arlovski (Pictures) was as great as anything ever seen at Miletich. Is that how you’d characterize it?
Miletich: Tim always trains hard for fights; he definitely put a lot of time in. He really wanted to avenge his loss to Andrei and prove to be people that he was the rightful owner of that belt.
Sherdog.com: You also told us that Matt was indignant that Royce would even get in the ring with him.
Miletich: Matt trained extremely hard, trained quite awhile for that fight — gosh, he trained almost three months.
Sherdog.com: Were you surprised at how easy it was?
Miletich: No. We thought that Royce was definitely going to give him a little more trouble than that. I pictured a second or third round stoppage. But people — I guess even us — don’t realize how far the sport has come and just how great a wrestler, how technical Matt is at jiu-jitsu and how fast he is, and how strong he is. People just don’t comprehend it until he actually grabs a hold of them for the first time.
Sherdog.com: Can you add some color to what these wins mean for Team Miletich, the organization?
Miletich: Our Web site hits were quite high before those fights, but they have definitely gone up. It’s definitely piqued some interest in our gym and our affiliate program and everything that is going on with it. We feel that we have a great system for not only putting out great fighters but having many students that are very happy with it, whether it’s a housewife or a businessman that wants to get in great shape like a fighter but not get beat up. We’ve got 21 affiliates in six months and it seems to be catching on quite a bit. Dave Kujawski, our VP of new business development, has been very instrumental in that. He is a very knowledgeable marketing guy, very organized on the business aspect of it. He’s been helping a lot with the support on the business side for the people who get involved in our affiliate program.
Sherdog.com: Let’s discuss the affiliate program first. What’s it about? How does it work?
Miletich: For people that show interest and want to learn from us and want to take the knowledge that we’ve gained over the years and give that to their students, we’re definitely more than willing to do that. We want to help their schools and help them with the business. Whether it’s the fighting aspect or the fitness aspect we’ll help them on that side also. It’s really a complex thing. I had no idea the can of worms we were going to open up when we started this. But it’s a blast and we’re having a lot of fun with it right now.
Sherdog.com: So how does this work? Is this for someone who has an existing school already?
Miletich: If somebody has an existing school and wants to see their business succeed or maybe expand, whether it be on the actual martial arts side or the business side, or both, we just fill in the gaps for them any way we can.
Sherdog.com: So it’s almost like the school becomes a franchise?
Miletich: To a certain extent. Once they submit their résumé of their experience, because I can’t take just a guy who’s done just tae kwon do his whole life or somebody who doesn’t have any experience in martial arts and just let them open up an affiliate school. It has to be somebody who’s been in business quite awhile and has some knowledge of grappling and striking and is decent to begin with.
Sherdog.com: So in terms of skill sets and background, who’s the ideal partner for you?
Miletich: If they have a fairly well balanced martial arts background, whether it be on the mat and striking, is what we’re looking for, and somebody with an open mind who is willing to keep learning, because that’s our mindset. It’s a never ending evolving, type system.
Sherdog.com: If they want to approach you, how do they do it?
Miletich: They usually contact us through the MFS Elite Web site.
Sherdog.com: So it’s not like someone can call you up and say, “I tried running a school, I couldn’t get any critical mass behind it, can you help me start a new school?”
Miletich: We would not go that route. We’re definitely shying away from anything like that. We want somebody to have an existing school in place, and ready to bring us in.
Sherdog.com: Once they sign on, are you going to back them by appearing in seminars at their facilities?
Miletich: Myself and maybe some of my fighters.
Sherdog.com: Do you have a pre-set curriculum?
Miletich: We have level 1 through 5 certifications. You can look at some guys and say, “This guy’s incredible on the ground and standing up, he knows a lot, but maybe it’s in the way he delivers it to his athletes or his students. Maybe he’s missing on the functional fitness part of it, to actually build bodies to perform the type of stuff he’s teaching them. There’s no use teaching anybody any techniques if they’re not physically able to do it. You have to build a body that’s able to do it. That’s important.
Sherdog.com: Do you have a belt system?
Miletich: I rarely do any of that. There’s only eight guys that have expert black belt-type rankings and you can guess who those people are. But yeah, we do rank them.
Sherdog.com: From a marketing standpoint: In light of the “McDojo” mentality of “I’ve got to get a belt,” is that an impediment to getting new students?
Miletich: For me, people aren’t going to get ranked overnight at all. That’s a 10-year process. For me, people should be very happy just to get to the first level. It’s not my goal to create a bunch of black belts. It’s my goal to make a bunch of people who are very fit, and know how to defend themselves and some great fighters come out of that also.
Sherdog.com: So there will be franchise fees from their side? So Miletich gets a recurring revenue stream?
Miletich: Exactly. We’re also in the process of starting the fight organization where we will put on events featuring a lot of the athletes from our affiliate schools from around the country.
Sherdog.com: At this point, you’ve been approached for affiliate programs not just in the United States but around the world, right?
Miletich: We plan on opening one in Greece probably at the end of the year to begin in 2007, possibly Italy. [A school in] Beijing has also contacted me. So we’re looking at several different places. We’ll probably have four in Canada by the end of the year. So we’re excited about that also. Ultimate goal is to open one in Zagreb, Croatia, though. (laughs)
Sherdog.com: That would be the toughest school, I’m guessing.
Miletich: Yeah. (laughs)
Sherdog.com: So the schools will feed up to the new fight promotion company?
Miletich: Yes, and it will serve as a great feeder program for guys that eventually want to make it over to our facility to start fighting at a higher level or even from their existing facilities to be able to compete in the IFL or UFC or PRIDE or whatever event it is they end up in. We’re just trying to help as many people as possible get to where they need to be and build a strong group of fighters. We’re going to try to do events in some of the cities where some of those affiliate schools are to help bring notoriety to their schools and advertising and things like that.
Sherdog.com: It’s almost like a farm system then.
Miletich: Exactly. The main thing is to get guys experience. We never intend for it to actually to make it to TV or pay-per-view level. I don’t want it to grow to that point.
Sherdog.com: Why not?
Miletich: Because I want it to serve as a feeder program.
Sherdog.com: So it will just attract more attention around the name, and even help recruit, even though you don’t do that?
Sherdog.com: What’s the name of this promotion company?
Miletich: We have not finalized the name at all.
Sherdog.com: How many fight promotion companies can the sport support? It seems like everybody’s got one. Who’s next? Giant Silva?
Miletich: That’s the main reason I have no desire to try and make it big. When you stay in venues that have two- or three-thousand seats, you don’t lose your ass. It’s a good revenue stream, and it’s helping a lot of kids get some good experience. It’s not a risky venture. There’s already several huge organizations out there with the IFL, UFC, PRIDE and WFA. So I have no desire to try and build another huge organization; that’s not my goal.
Sherdog.com: Let’s talk about IFL. As predicted your team is doing great right out of the chute. How are the productions themselves going? How are the ratings?
Miletich: IFL has done everything and more that they said that they would do. They’ve been incredible to work with. Kurt Otto and Gareb Shamus are very sharp businessmen as well as guys that are looking out for the athletes. They understand that the athletes are the sport, so they’ve got to take care of the athletes. They’ll reap the rewards for doing that because the athletes are going to remain very loyal to them. As far as the ratings are concerned, I know that the first show out of the chute blew PRIDE’s ratings on Fox Sports Net out of the water.
Sherdog.com: I was skeptical and so were other fans, about the quality of the fights, but they’ve been great.
Miletich: The fights were great. The TV production has been incredible. They’ve got guys like Peter Lasser, very experienced guys who really know what they’re doing and have packaged a great product.
Sherdog.com: Have you been renewed?
Miletich: I don’t get involved in that, we just know that things are pretty secure. FSN seems to be very happy with what they’re seeing, and that’s all that matters to us.
Sherdog.com: So when’s the next event after the finals?
Miletich: September 9 in Portland, Oregon. And September 23, in Moline, Illinois, where I will be fighting Renzo Gracie (Pictures).
Sherdog.com: So you can say it now? How did this fight happen?
Miletich: Renzo and I have been friends for quite awhile and he has always been a nice person and I consider him to be, probably the most well rounded Gracie. Very talented on the ground, and he’ll stand up and bang with people, too. That instantly tells me, “He’s a warrior.” Not only that, he’s a standup guy. He’s willing to come and fight me in Moline, Illinois, which is right across the Mississippi river from my hometown. So he’s coming right into the arms of the beast to fight me. That shows he’s very confident, also. So hats off to him. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. Out of all the Gracies, I respect Renzo the most.
Sherdog.com: Speaking of confidence — this is a lot different from other comebacks these days. … There will be no tune-up fight?
Miletich: I plan on jumping right in. If there’s a tune-up fight coming my way in early August, I’ll take it [laughs]. I’m just excited to get back in there. I’m healthy again, I feel great. For me this is also a test. When I had a severe neck injury three-plus years ago, the neurologist told me I’d have to have surgery; I’d never be the same; I wouldn’t be able to function; wouldn’t be able to do anything. But I feel great, I’ve been training with my fighters off and on for two years now.
Sherdog.com: So what did you do to overcome the injury?
Miletich: Chiropractic care, stretching, lifting. Once I felt strong enough, solid enough, started rolling around and sparring. I feel great. The neck’s not bothering me at all. For me, it’s kind of a battle with myself. I want to be able to tell my body when I want to quit and not the other way around. Just getting in the ring with Renzo is winning a battle.
Sherdog.com: Any comments about upcoming fights for the Miletich camp?
Miletich: Robbie Lawler (Pictures) is fighting in ICON on July 1. They’re building the hype to fight Jason Miller later this summer. Tim is defending against Andrei on July 8.
Sherdog.com: That didn’t take long.
Miletich: Well a lot of the champions are injured and Matt just fought so they asked Tim to step up to defend his title because they needed a big fight, a big match-up. So Tim was a bigger man and stepped up.