As a UFC Hall of Famer, former coach and current MMA analyst, there’s no denying Pat Miletich’s credentials as an authority on the sport.
As Miletich puts it, his knack for identifying talent dates back to his upbringing as a wrestler in Iowa. So what exactly are the attributes of a potentially great fighter?
“It’s kind of a rare combo of people that have the athletic ability, the work ethic, the intelligence,” Miletich, who commentates for AXS TV Fights, told MMAjunkie Radio. “They’ve got to be thinkers. It’s something that you just get a gut feeling about.”
While Miletich is often right with his reads, there is one guy who he admits he was wrong about: Tim Sylvia.
Miletich recalls Sylvia coming to his Iowa gym from Maine in 2001, weighing 300-plus pounds, not being able to jump rope and getting roughed up a lot.
“He cried after every practice,” Miletich said.
Things were so bad with Sylvia in the early going, Miletich said, that UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes, Jens Pulver and Jeremy Horn once suggested to Miletich that he consider cutting ties with Sylvia. But even though Sylvia showed little natural ability at first, there was one main reason Miletich wouldn’t listen.
“I can’t tell him to go home, because he tried so hard,” Miletich said. “That’s the one thing that I care about, is I would rather train somebody who could barely win any fights, but they give 110 percent every day in practice than train a world champion who’s so gifted that it comes easy to him, and he’s lazy. … I have no desire to work with someone that has no work ethic.”
Sylvia (31-10-1 MMA, 6-3 UFC) stuck around, and the rest, as they say, is history. Sylvia would go on to enjoy a nearly 12-year professional career and become a two-time UFC heavyweight champion during his stint with the promotion from 2002 to 2008.
“Tim was a guy that literally worked his ass off, made it, won a world title, and then won it again,” Miletich said. “So that’s the only guy that I’ve ever been wrong on for the most part.”
Nowadays, when Miletich observes up-and-coming talent calling LFA and CES MMA fights for AXS TV, he isn’t so concerned about being right or wrong about fighter potential. The main focus is to explain the action in a way that the audience – both hardcore and casual fans – can easily understand it.
“I’m there to be the ‘why’ guy,” Miletich said. “Why is it happening? What could one guy be doing to change the outcome of a certain situation or position? What’s one guy doing great? I try not to be too critical. … I’m just there to be the ‘why’ guy and educate people a little bit.”
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