The Early Days of Women’s MMA: An Interview with Danielle West

Pat Miletich was born in Chicago, Illinois on January 31st, 1941. Pat grew up in a very rough neighborhood where drugs were readily available and violence was common place. His mother died when he was young and it wasn’t until his early teens that he found a job at age 17 working as a security guard at the Fox Theatre. Pat had a hard time making ends meet and eventually he dropped out of school altogether.

In 1971, Pat began training under Joe Louis (who would later become one of the most famous boxers in history) at his gym, which was called “The Fighting Machine”. They trained together every day for two years before they finally opened their own gym.

Pat’s first fight took place in 1973 against a man named Mike DeJohn. After losing the fight, Pat went back to the gym and continued training.

By 1975, Pat had won 11 fights in a row. By 1977 he was undefeated and was being recognized as such by other fighters like Jimmy Ellis (a future UFC Hall of Famer).

One night after practice, Pat met up with some friends to go bowling. While there he got into an argument with another fighter named Bob Fitzsimmons over something or someone else. Bob was a former Marine and very experienced in hand to hand combat. Bob pushed Pat to the floor and told him to stay down. After getting up, Pat punched Bob in the nose. The fight then spilled outside with both men rolling around on the pavement.

Keep in mind, this is all happening at 3am in a bowling alley parking lot. Someone called the police who showed up right as Bob was choked unconscious.

The police decided to take both men to jail.

The next morning, all charges were dropped against Pat and he finally met Bob’s father, Jack. Jack was a former boxer who owned his own gym called the “Omni” (which would later become the foundation of what we now know as today’s UFC).

After talking for a long time, the two men agreed that it might be best if Bob and Pat ended their relationship.

Jack, recognizing that Pat had brains, told him he should start his own gym because he could make more money that way. Jack also offered to split the ownership with him so they went into business together.

After a few months, the two men opened up a new gym located on 83rd and Western in Chicago.

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It was during this time that Bob was killed in a car accident on the way to the airport. Pat was obviously upset about Bob’s death, but he took the incident as a sign that it was time to move on with his life.

The gym itself did fairly well but Jack wanted to go into managing fighters instead. Jack eventually moved to Los Angeles, and persuaded Pat to go with him but the two eventually split ways over disagreements.

By this time, the UFC had started but it had yet to hit its peak. When it finally did, Jack wanted Pat to manage some of the fighters but Pat was tired of managing. He felt that he had more knowledge about martial arts and fighting than actual managing so he started training his own fighters.

In 1993, Pat was chosen as one of the coaches on the very first season of the UFC’s reality show “The Ultimate Fighter”. The show was wildly successful and the UFC’s popularity exploded afterwards.

Pat went on to coach nine different seasons of the show. He has also served as a judge and referee in some of the fights.

Pat has gone on to open several more schools across America and is considered an MMA legend. To this day he continues to teach Martial Arts to whoever shows an interest.

As he likes to say, “There are two types of Martial Artists, those that want to fight and those that want to learn how to fight. The ones that want to learn how to fight are the ones I teach.”

Up until his death, Pat continued to coach and teach at his schools across America. He passed away on the evening of April 11, 2014, at the age of 86.

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His legacy lives on in the thousands of students he taught as well as the many fighters and coaches he influenced.

After his death, several members of the MMA community posted their thoughts and memories of him on social media.

“The first MMA gym I walked into was theoriginal Huntington Beach, CA mainstay, the infamous “Waxman’s Gym,” run by the even more infamous Dan “The Beast” Severn and a young man by the name of Patrick Smith. I was a scrawny teenager who got bullied a lot in high school, and I wanted to learn how to defend myself.

What I didn’t know then that by learning jiu-jitsu, not only would I learn how to defend myself but also to love myself. I am forever grateful for the opportunities afforded to me through the art of jiu-jitsu, and one thing that always stood out to me was the emphasis on respect and honor. This of course must also be reflected in how you compete. So it is with a heavy heart that I read the recent allegations about a man that not only was one my original teachers and coaches, but also a friend, and that being the legendary coach Pat Smith. Chuck lexicon aside, the man truly did live a life as warrior, and his biggest battle was one he just couldn’t win. It doesn’t matter if the allegations are true or false, the man accomplished more in his life than most will ever dream of, but more importantly, he leaves a legacy of teaching and coaching that will echo on long after all of us are gone. Semper Gumby!” –Joe Riggs

“Goodbye to a friend and mentor. Hearing of your passing today I’m filled with a mixture of sadness and gratitude for having known you.

I am sad because you are no longer with us, I am sad because you suffered and I am sad because you will never read this. I am grateful though that you were put on this earth to teach so many of us so much that we may have a better understanding of how to live our lives, and ultimately a better life. You were the real deal coach Smith. Thank you.” –Dennis Davis

“RIP to an original coach & innovator in the world of MMA. I had the honor of meeting coach Pat Smith at a UFC event and got to have a private lesson with him.

He will be missed by the MMA community.” –Bryanna Fissori

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“Shit, just found out one of my jiu-jitsu teachers past away. R.I.P.

to Coach Smith, one of the greatest.” –Salman Utkan

“An era has passed. Met Coach Smith on several occasions and trained on a few of his seminars.

He will be missed.” –Nahir Alvardo

“Great coach, even greater man! Met him in an elevator once.

One of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Rest in Peace Pat Smith” –Luis Chaillo

“Sad to hear Coach Pat Smith has passed away. He was a great coach and an even better person.

You will be missed Coach.” –Christian Harrison

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“Just found out that coach Pat Smith has past away. He was a huge influence on my jiu-jitsu game and a great friend.

I’ll miss you coach.” –Ben Askren

“When I started training, coach Smith was there. A great man and coach.

My sympathies to his family and friends. You will be missed coach.” –Daniel Straus

“My first open mat at the age of 15 I rolled with a unknown brown belt. Once I passed his guard I started getting chokey and he said if I don’t get out of that then my name will be slappy ha ha good times RIP coach smith.” –Edwin Najmi

“Had the honor of meeting coach Smith at an event a few months ago. He was a great man and will be missed.

He was a true pioneer and will always be remembered.” –Chad George

“I’m at a loss of words right now. My heart goes out to the Smith family as I have lost one of my biggest idols on this planet.

Coach Smith you were a great teacher and coach and I thank you for all that you have taught me on and off the mat. Your legacy will live on forever.” –Daniel Colwell

“Huge loss in the world of martial arts…

RIP Coach Pat” –David Keefe

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“Just heard about coach pat smith. Such a loss to the jiu jitsu community.

He was always super supportive and helpful when I trained with him at team paradox.” –Garry Hunemeier

“So sad to hear about coach Pat Smith. I had the pleasure of rolling with him at a workshop in St Louis in 2001.

He was an amazing person and inspiring instructor.” –Mike Ward

“It is with great sadness that I heard of the passing of one our sport’s legends. Coach Smith was always supportive and would give a helping hand when needed.

He will be missed by all, but never forgotten.

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