For those that are new to Mixed Martial Arts, the concept of fighters joining together to form a team is no novel idea. In fact it seems to be the case these days that unless you have a solid team backing you, you’re chances of making it far in the world of MMA are slim. From Xtreme Couture to American Top Team to the nameless stable of fighters working together under Greg Jackson; high profile teams the world over act as the factories where modern MMA champions are made.
Very few fighters remain unaffiliated with a team of some sort and those that do are either prodigious, lucky, or currently unsuccessful. So it may come as a surprise to some that in the dark and early days of Mixed Martial Arts, when fighters were still competing in Gi pants and wrestling shoes and Tank Abbott was still a force to be reckoned with, that fight teams were as rare as a well-rounded fighter. Keeping with the simile, those teams that did exist were as successful in those times as the first fighters were who learned to combine striking with grappling and conditioning with a game plan.
Teams like Chute Boxe (which produced fighters like Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, and pound for pound great Anderson Silva), Hammer House (home to Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman and Phil Baroni when they were unstoppable), and Miletich Fighting Systems (the birthplace for country-born killers Matt Hughes, Tim Sylvia, Jeremy Horn, and Jens Pulver) were among the few early and successful fight teams; each team produced champions, some in more than one weight class. It was natural that by earning such accolades these early teams, fighters and especially the coaches would be held in awe by the Mixed Martial Arts fandom.
Thus it comes unexpectedly the comments that former UFC lightweight champion and MFS product Jens Pulver recently made about his old coach in an interview with Jonathan Snowden at UGO. Seeing the success Pulver had during his tutelage at Miletich Fighting Systems and perceiving the role that Pat Miletich played in that success as being integral, one would expect nothing but praise and gratitude from Pulver when the subject of his tenure at MFS was broached. Such was not the case.
“People always ask for Pat’s secret ingredient. There wasn’t no secret ingredient…,” said Pulver. “There was no one leader man. We all did it together. Jeremy Horn was the leader when it comes down to it. We all ran after that guy…”
“Little Evil”, who recently left MFS, was asked about the current status of his relationship with veteran fighter and coach Miletich and whether he had experienced a falling out with his former teammates (most of whom are also currently unaffiliated with MFS).
“How could I have a falling out? Fallen out with who? There is nobody. They’re all gone. There was Pat, but Pat is too busy trying to make cash, making a living. He ain’t coaching people. Everyone always thought Pat had a magical touch and was teaching us all these magical things. No he wasn’t. No. Never. Never ever. It was a great combination of things that left. Jeremy left, Matt left, Robbie left. [Striking coach] Matt Pena left. Everybody grew up more or less. We weren’t there anymore. And that’s why the great experiment is over.”
Pulver expressed why he thinks that MFS has fallen from its’ former glory and why any myth surrounding Miletich’s coaching greatness should be debunked.
“If there is a key ingredient, and Pat Miletich was teaching it, then that key ingredient would still be there. Correct? The young bucks would still be coming. Correct? I wasn’t trying to talk mess about Pat himself. I’m just ready to go. I’m 34 years old. How long was I supposed to stay there? I hadn’t been home in 10 years. I’m tired. I want to build my own gym. I want to build my own fighters. It’s my time.”
Pulver has had a rough go of it lately; going 1-4 with 4 losses in a row since a loss to BJ Penn saw him drop down from the UFC’s lightweight division to try his chances in the WEC’s featherweight division. Knowing that his upcoming fight with Javier Vazquez could be his last if it doesn’t go his way, Pulver talks about his future plans outside of the cage.
“I want to push the amateur end of [MMA competition]. Legitimate amateur competition, not pro rules they call ‘amateur’ so the promoter pimp doesn’t have to pay the fighter trick. They’ve got to stop exploiting the fighter. I want to clean up my sport as well.”
Miletich is not alone in having his aura of infallibility get called into question. Most of those once-dominant teams have largely fallen from grace and into irrelevancy; which is unfortunately the same case with many of the fighters that once highlighted said teams (think Kevin Randleman, Jeremy Horn, and Tim Sylvia).
Pulver will join early fight team standouts Matt Hughes, Wanderlei Silva and Phil Baroni in the literal fight to maintain relevancy in the world of MMA when he takes on young up-and-comer Javier Vazquez at this weekend’s WEC event, “WEC 47: Bowles Vs. Cruz”. The lead up to this fight with Vazquez, Pulver’s so-called “last march”, is the subject of an upcoming documentary by Gregory Bayne titled “Driven”.