By Keith Mills
Monte Cox is the promoter for Extreme Challenge as well as the manager for the Miletich Martial Arts team. For the last 5 years Extreme Challenge has been the starting point or an early stop for rising stars as Jeremy Horn in addition to current and past UFC champions Matt Hughes, Pat Miletich, and Dave Menne. This interview with Monte Cox was conducted at the hotel the night before UFC35 where Jens Pulver defended his title and Dave Menne lost his.
FCF: You’re one of the most dominant managers in this sport right now…
MC: The only thing with that is that I have more champions than everyone else but I don’t have the #1 golden boys of the sport. Tito Ortiz is the #1 fighter in the US; he’s the star. In Japan there’s all these Heavyweights that are making a lot of money. We’re kind of the Lightweight capital right now. We have the 155-pound champion, the 175-pound champion, and the 185-pound champion, but we don’t have the other weights. I don’t really know how dominant that makes us. It means right now that we’re doing something right. This all goes back to the Miletich Martial Arts Center, the training, it goes hand in hand. They do the training and try to work with each other and I try to move them along in their careers. It’s been a nice marriage.
FCF: Even though these people are different weight classes they still train together?
MC: They all train together.
FCF: So for instance Pulver has to train against Hughes?
MC: Of course. That’s what makes Pulver so good. Every day in the gym Jens Pulver has to go against Matt Hughes, Jeremy Horn, Dave Menne, Pat Miletich…every day. So by the time they get to the fight they get to someone their weight he’s all excited. He said the other night ‘I can’t wait to fight someone my size’. We don’t have anyone his size. He has to be able to perform against world champions at higher weights, so when he gets in against guys in his own weight class he tends to dominate.
FCF: I disagree with you about not being a dominant manager. Not only seeing your fighters repeatedly in the rankings but also when we look up other fighter’s record there are your guys left and right. They are some of the most experienced fighters. Although they may not get the biggest paycheck or be the internet favorites, from the point of view of the American fight scene they are some of the most recognizable names.
MC: The thing with the manager thing is there are only a handful of guys. Most people couldn’t name 2 other managers in this sport. I do it full time so I’m one of the few. If there are others that do this for a living I don’t know too many of them in the US especially. Maybe I rank 1 in a field of 1. It’s not I take guys that are already world champions and start managing them-I haven’t don’t that with anybody. We take guys that are learning and young and just starting out and we build them. Jeremy Horn, Pat Miletich, and Dave Menne and all these guys started with me when they had like 2 fights or no fights. 40 fights later they’re champions. 50 fights later for Horn and he’s in Pride. It’s been a long road. I think we’ve done a good job getting them ready, moving them up in the competition. That’s what we do best.
FCF: Your fighters are repeatedly not respected as much as perhaps they should be…
MC: The funny thing with Dave was that he came in and beat Fabiano Iha convincingly and then Iha gets back in the next two times and Menne’s left out. He goes "what am I supposed to do, should I have lost?" Then when he finally does get back in it’s a title shot. And that came on the heels of proving in Kuwait he was one of the best if not the best 185#er in the world by beating all those guys. (Note: Joe Silva of UFC has some very good reasons to allow only 1 fighter per manager per weight class which kept Dave out while Pat Miletich was champion, among which is the fact Miletich’s people will train together but not fight each other). The reason I think a lot of our guys aren’t respected #1 is we don’t live on the East Coast or the West Coast. The Mid-West has more of a work ethic and we kind of keep to ourselves. We’re not flamboyant; you don’t see our guys on the internet much. The people who are complaining don’t understand wrestling and ground control. They don’t understand game plans. That’s what we do. We go out with one thing in mind: we have to win. People can say all the time "you have to entertain the fans”; no you have to win in this sport. If you don’t win you don’t become a champion. If you don’t become a champion you don’t make any money. As much as everyone can say, "you can go out and loose good," yeah that’s great but your money doesn’t go up and you don’t win titles that way. I don’t find our style that boring. If you like college wrestling you’d love what we do. We work position, try to pick out an opponent’s weakness, and exploit it. We don’t go out with a striker and try to strike with them and get knocked out. You can’t do that. We don’t want to.
FCF: But your fighters themselves have a variety of styles. You have Hughes who really stands out most as an incredible wrestler but then you have Pulver who stands out most as a striker…
MC: Then you have Horn is mainly Jiu-Jitsu and you have Menne who is a little bit of everything and you have Pat who has really good stand-up but is also a wrestler. All those guys have wrestling backgrounds.
FCF: My theory is since we have the traditional media capitals in LA and NY while you’re isolated in the mid-west you don’t have as easy national media coverage and that may be why your guys aren’t respected as much.
MC: The reason we don’t get as much coverage now is simply we don’t do as many shows. I’m concentrating a lot more on management than promotion. It used to be I’d write the reports and send more in. I had more time. Now I’m sending just shorter reports and getting the results in but I don’t do as much as I used to. I just don’t have the time to do the reporting. Because of where we’re located we never had reporters sent by the media.
FCF: Also I think not having a website is handicapping you too.
MC: A little bit, but I ran the website and it was ok but again it was the same deal; if I have time to write all the results then I’d send them out to all the other websites and get them up. If I don’t have time to write those I don’t have time to write them for my website either. I just flat out don’t have the time. I decided just to not do that for right now. We’ll bring it back sometime, I just had trouble with people running the website. I would write so many stories and then I’d get scooped on other websites on my own stuff. I got tired of that.
FCF: So you don’t see any change as far as relocation?
MC: I’m not going to move anywhere. We’re successful because of where we are. We get the mid-western wrestling based guys and try to make them fighters and it’s been pretty successful, we don’t have any real reason to change.
FCF: What’s the next Extreme Challenge show?
MC: T Jay Thompson and I are working together. We’re doing a series of three shows. The first will be Feb 16th in Des Moines, Iowa. 8-man Heavyweight tournament with the winner and runner up advancing to a big show in Hawaii in April. March 16th in Utah we’re going to do another 8-man tournament with the winner and runner up advancing to Hawaii. Once you get to Hawaii it’s going to be a 16-man 2-day tournament with the winner getting 10 grand and a pretty good chance of getting in the UFC. We talked to them and they’re going to come and watch and take someone from there. It’s a really big tournament for us to give out 10 grand to 1 person. Hopefully we can find a star somewhere.
FCF: Since losing Bobby Hoffman I’m not aware of any heavyweights fighting under you.
MC: I have 3. Right now I have Tom Sauer, I’ve got Tim Silvia who’s a 6’8 guy of Pat Miletich who is undefeated, and I’ve got Kerry “Meat Truck” Schall who’s won 6 in a row. So I’ve got those three that are still out there. They’re not quite UFC level yet but they will be, wait 6 months.
FCF: What about light-heavyweight?
MC: Light Heavyweight we’ve got Jeremy Horn but coming up we have Rich Franklin who’s one of the best up and comers. He’s 15-0 and won the main event at the John Lewis WFA beating Marvin Eastman in a minute. We also have Nate Schroeder who debuted in the UFC at 225: he can make 205 now.
FCF: So you released Bobby Hoffman…
MC: That was my call, not his call. I sent him off.
FCF: Did that have anything to do with failing the drug test in the UFC?
MC: Had nothing to do with any of that. I sent him to Japan to compete in a Rings event. It was a 4-man tournament (where) he won his first bout, found out he wasn’t getting as much money as Jeremy Horn was getting in the event but Jeremy Horn is more popular in Japan. It’s a difference of like 2 grand; it wasn’t a big deal. He got all pissed off and refused to go out and fight the second fight, screaming and yelling at all the people there and making a general embarrassment of himself and our team. It was too much. He got drunk that night and was making a fool of himself, making threats against me and my family and stuff like that. We just said that’s enough and I cut him immediately. He never fit in with our group; our group trains really hard.
FCF: Is that the only fighter you let go?
MC: Nope, I had one other — Sean Sherk. We took him to 19-0 back when they were only allowing 1 guy per weight class in the UFC and he wanted to be in the UFC, that was his goal. He left my management to seek other management so he could get in the UFC. He’s going to be in UFC in March. I don’t think he had anything against me.
FCF: Would he fight against Miletich people?
MC: Sure he would. Never trained with them, never a part of them. He trained with Menne but never trained with anyone else.