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Sunday, August 06, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Pat Miletich & Dana White Trade Verbal Shots in Newspaper Article
by Ivan Trembow

Mixed martial arts trainer and fighter Pat Miletich recently traded verbal shots with Zuffa president Dana White in a Quad City Times newspaper article.

Zuffa recently scheduled its UFC 63 pay-per-view event to take place on September 23rd, which is the same date as the IFL show on which Pat Miletich will make his in-ring return to active MMA competition for the first time since losing to Matt Lindland in 2002. On the same IFL show, Miletich will also be coaching the five members of his Quad City Silverbacks team against the five members of Renzo Gracie's New York Pitbulls team.

Two of the top fighters from Miletich's acclaimed training center are scheduled to compete on the UFC pay-per-view event on the very same night, as UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes will fight Georges St. Pierre, and former UFC Lightweight Champion Jens Pulver will be fighting in the UFC for the first time since 2002. This means that Hughes and Pulver will not be able to have their usual cornerman in their corner, nor will Miletich be able to have Hughes or Pulver in his corner for his first MMA fight in over four years.

As you might have guessed, this does not sit too well with Miletich, who told the Quad City Times, "That’s Dana White’s business strategy. He’ll keep making enemies and we’ll keep making friends. Eventually, the worm will completely turn. I’m sure he offered Matt a large financial incentive to fight that night. When Matt wins, Jens wins, our team [the IFL entry Silverbacks] wins, and I win, everybody’s going to be good.”

The response from Dana White in the Quad City Times was: "I’m sure he does think that. Pat’s a paranoid lunatic, and he thinks that the UFC’s always trying to [mess] with him." White added, "Unless someone tells me the IFL’s doing something, I don’t even know they exist.”

Like all of the fighters associated with Miletich, which includes three of the UFC's four current champions, Jens Pulver was put in the awkward position of being stuck between his trainer (Miletich) and his boss (White), and he didn't want to offend either party. Pulver told the Quad City Times, "It sucks that it’s got to be like that. None of us want to miss that. He [Miletich] is our guy. That’s our coach, but things happen. I’ll be on the phone before and after my fight, ‘How’d it go? What’d he do?’ ”

The problems between White and Miletich date back to January 2006, when White called Miletich and allegedly threatened him in an effort to get him to sever all of his ties with the IFL. Instead of agreeing to no longer participate as a coach in the IFL, Miletich provided a deposition, under oath, when the UFC sued the IFL in an attempt to get a temporary restraining order to prevent the IFL's first show from taking place.

White has not commented publicly on that particular situation, and Miletich has only commented on it in general, broad terms, but the body of his sworn deposition provides the details on what allegedly happened. Excerpts from Miletich's deposition follow.

In this deposition, Miletich stated, "In or around late January 2006, I received a call from Mr. White... he proceeded to express in a rather irate manner his feelings about the IFL and abruptly stated that 'he was going to f--king crush these [the IFL] guys.' ... Mr. White further threatened me during the conversation, and implicitly the livelihoods of the fighters I train, stating that 'when the dust settles, anyone associated with the IFL would not be associated with the UFC.' I took this for what it was -- a threat to me and to my fighters who count on me to represent them and obtain opportunities to for them to fight in the MMA industry. Because of the virtual monopoly that Zuffa has in the MMA industry, Mr. White clearly knew that cutting me and my fighters off from the UFC would have a devastating economic impact."

Miletich continued, "Mr. White further told me during this conversation that he had been on the phone all day calling everyone he dealt with in the MMA industry and told me that, after speaking with all of them, none would be doing business with the IFL. My understanding from his comment was that he had made the same threats to everyone else he knew in the MMA industry that he had just made to me during our conversation... Following my conversation with Mr. White, Ken Shamrock, another world-renowned MMA fighter, called me and told me that Mr. White had just 'raised hell' with him about his being associated with the IFL. As I understand it, Mr. White had made similar threats to Mr. Shamrock whom I believe at the time had an agreement with the IFL to coach one of its teams. I further understand that Mr. White made the same or similar threats to Randy Couture, perhaps one of the most legendary MMA fighters in the world and a former UFC World Champion. I further understand that Mr. White called a current UFC World Champion, Matt Hughes, to inquire of him whether he had any involvement in the IFL."

Miletich claimed in the deposition that he tried to reason with White, but to no avail. "During this conversation I expressed to Mr. White my opinion based on numerous conversations with individuals in the MMA industry that a lot of people involved in MMA industry didn't very much care for him or the way Zuffa conducted its business and treated the individuals who fought at UFC events. In response, Mr. White stated that it 'wasn't his f--king job to be liked.' Mr. White further told me that he had spoken with the Fertittas (who own Zuffa), and they had given their 'permission' to go after the IFL... I told him that I felt going after the IFL for no reason would be very bad for the entire MMA industry. Clearly, Mr. White could care less what I thought... I believe this litigation is about one thing and one thing only -- stamping out legitimate and, indeed, healthy, competition. I declare under penalties of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct."

If you believe Miletich, his statements would help explain why Randy Couture and Ken Shamrock both pulled out of their roles as IFL coaches after they had each agreed to be coaches in the IFL. It would also make sense that Miletich would be perhaps the only person in the entire MMA industry who would have the leverage to stand up and say "no" in such a situation, given that he is associated with three of the UFC's four current champions.

The response to the Quad City Times newspaper article from the MMA community has been mixed. Jeff Thaler of Whaledog.com encapsulated a lot of the response from the MMA community, as he wrote, "I find it hard to believe that Dana White *just happened* to hold UFC 63 on the same night when Miletich is fighting. What makes White's story even harder to believe is his incredible statement that he does not even know the IFL exists unless someone tells him. Really? Well, if White does not know the IFL exists, I wonder how he managed to file a lawsuit against the IFL - before its first show - that essentially sought to put the IFL out of business. Nevertheless, as much as White's statements carry little credibility, his business practices are not unheard of for a large company trying to smother an up and coming competitor. Scheduling conflicting shows is not nice, but it is not really out of line either."

Regarding the broader situation of how Zuffa is dealing with potential competitors, Thaler wrote, "On the other hand, the UFC is the elephant in the room and it seems to have decided to throw away its goodwill a long time ago. The UFC believes its interests are served by bullying the IFL and trying to reduce the IFL's audience, so that is what it is going to do. It is not too different from what the UFC did when it scheduled two specials to air on Spike TV on the same night the WFA had its PPV event. Now, as for calling Miletich a 'paranoid lunatic' . . . that was just unnecessary. Miletich trains two UFC champions [Matt Hughes and Tim Sylvia], and is aligned with the Monte Cox, the manager of its third champion [Rich Franklin]. At some point, those fighters' contracts will be up for renewal. Will White's arrogant attitude (and major surge in revenues) lead to contract disputes or even the UFC champions leaving the organization? My guess is that White is in for some tough negotiations."

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