LAS VEGAS – The lone inductee into the 2014 UFC Hall of Fame will be former welterweight champion Pat Miletich, the man who put Bettendorf, Iowa on the map. Miletich will be inducted on Sunday as part of the International Fight Week ceremonies, some 12 years after his last fight in the Octagon against Matt Lindland at UFC 36.
He received a call from Dana White a couple of weeks ago asking him if he’d accept the honor. Miletich, who’s had a strained relationship with the UFC going back to the IFL days (you might remember White calling him a "paranoid lunatic" among other things) happily accepted. This comes at a time of mending fences for the UFC in general. Last month, White and Ken Shamrock squashed their ongoing feud, and now Shamrock is also taking part of the fight week festivities.
So what’s going on? Miletich doesn’t rightly now (or want to say), but he finds his name to be a hot one all of a sudden.
"Obviously the disagreement with the UFC weighed heavily on me for a lot of years" he says. "It was unfortunate that it happened. I think the way Dana White’s gone about this has been pretty classy. I’m humbled by the way it’s been approached by him. I’ve got to give it to him.
"And I’ve always been a guy who thinks you earn what you deserve, and you work for what you get in life. I got inducted into the Dan Gable National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Dan Gable is my childhood idol, so that to me was really a crowning achievement for me. But Dana’s been very classy in how he’s approached it."
Miletich was going to be in Vegas anyway to commentate for Friday night’s Lion Fights muay Thai competition, and to celebrate AXS TV’s 250th event. And everything that you’ve come to know about his outspoken right wing belief system is intact. While talking about the HOF nod, he’s chewing some Copenhagen and watching a law enforcement friend’s video footage of recreational tank/machine gun fire in the Arizona desert. His freemason ring sticks out as he adjusts his glasses to say, "Wow, that’s a lot of lead." And don’t get him started about the International border, or extremists, or anything to do with gun laws.
He can lay out for you all that is wrong with America, as well as volunteer some theories as to how to fix it.
But what he can also do is talk about fights in a way that many fans appreciate. Miletich has emerged as one of the game’s top color commentators and analysts over the last several years with stints at ESPN, Showtime and now AXS TV. And at this point in time, there’s been a lot of talk as to how Miletich might fit in with Spike TV as part of the Bellator coverage.
Or, in the wake of Chael Sonnen’s firing from FOX, how he might look on that set. Miletich says he keeps hearing these types of whisperings, and that ultimately it would have to be a pretty sweet deal to lure him away.
"I would say this -- Showtime sports gave me my first chance, and taught me how to do broadcasting," he says. "I learned a lot at ESPN, and I’ve learned a great deal at AXS. AXS has become my family. It’s a great group of guys, a great group of people. For me to switch camps it would have to be a considerable amount of money, something that would truly change my family’s life. And AXS doesn’t pay me bad, trust me. They pay me well.
"But that’s not what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about covering the Lion Fights at The Pearl."
Miletich defended the welterweight belt four times from 1998-2001. As much as he accomplished as a fighter, he’s more than doubled as a trainer and coach. From the 1990s until the late-2000s, Miletich has had champions in multiple weight classes in the UFC. Among those who are forever associated with the Miletich Fighting Systems are Jens Pulver, Matt Hughes, Jeremy Horn, Tim Sylvia, Robbie Lawler and many others.
His contributions to the sport have been numerous, from bringing fighters up to helping with sanctioning back in pre-Zuffa Wild West, to educating officials on techniques and rules. In general, Miletich is one of the original ambassadors of the sport.
"I would say that 11 legitimate top level champions, we’ve changed some guys lives and made things better for them," he says. "It’s been a pleasurable experience for me. It’s much more enjoyable watching a guy win a championship on TV than winning one myself. I think that the coaching aspect really helps you understand people a lot better."
Miletich will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. PT at the UFC Fan Expo at Mandalay Bay.