Yesterday it was announced that a new mixed martial arts promotion will be coming to New Jersey. Fight promoter Hani Darwish partnered with HBO Sports executive Mark Taffet, a sports television pioneerand 25-year head of HBOPPV to create MMA Pro League.
MMA Pro League, a team-based professional MMA league, will debut with five events in 2018 at the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City featuring teams of fighters from different regions of the country all leading up to the first full regular season and playoffs in 2019.
Each team in the league will be led by an iconic MMA figure beginning with Team New Jersey Coach and former UFC fighter Dan Miller of the Miller Brothers and Team Pennsylvania Coach and Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion Daniel Gracie of the renowned Gracie family.
Today we spoke with Miller to get his involvement with the new organization and a variety of other topics to include a possible return to mixed martial arts action, Chuck Liddell, and why good friend and training partner Sean ‘Shorty Rock’ Santella has yet to get called by the UFC.
Miller last fought professionally at the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter Season 21 Finale in July 2015. His combined 10-year professional record is 14-8-0 and 1 NC.
LISTEN TO DAN MILLER BELOW:
Highlights from Dan Miller interview:
How did this come about?
“It’s a good opportunity that I think I’ll enjoy. We have some young guys in our gym now that are moving up in fights and stuff like that. I enjoy the coaching aspect and being in the corner and kind of going full circle in my career.”
Comparison to IFL
“It was a great experience fighting for the IFL, fighting for Renzo’s team. To compete for him was kind of a dream come true. I grew up watching him fight and to have him in my corner and coach me was fantastic. I think it’s generally gonna be kind of the same thing (the MMA Pro League format and IFL format) but I think they are going to learn from the IFL’s mistakes, make improvements and I think it is going to be a fantastic promotion. I think a lot of people are gonna enjoy what they put on.”
How does one try out or are they being hand picked?
“As of right the now, the first season is just gonna kind of be put together. I’m selecting a team right now to compete against Daniel Gracie. I know in the future they are going to have tryouts and stuff like that.”
“It has to be pro. Other than that you can’t have too many fights. We’re not looking for guys with 20 fights. It’s gonna be debuts and guys with 1,2,3, 4, fights. Right now Daniel and I are working to get some fighters and some matchups made.”
Possible fight with Daniel Gracie
(Laughs) “There has been no talk about that. It’s a good idea, but I haven’t fought in three years. I don’t even know when was the last time he fought. It is what it is. Maybe a grappling match. Maybe. Let’s see what we can put together. When I was with the IFL, I actually got to train with Daniel, when we were going to New York City with Renzo. Fantastic guy. Taught me a lot. I’m excited for the opportunity to compete against him… just as a coach.”
Chuck Liddell coming out of retirement
“Um, I’m kind of in the same boat. There is this itch to compete again. I’m not saying it’s completely off the table either. I’ve entertained the idea of doing it. Um, maybe this Fall. I’m excited to see him come back. I just want to see the right matchup for Chuck. I love the guy. I think he’s a fantastic fighter. He’s done so much for the sport. It would be good to see him compete again. Just in the right matchup. It’s hard. It is hard. Every time that I go to a fight or I coach somebody or being around it, makes me want to compete again. The craziest part about it is, when Jim (brother) cuts weight or when I see guys cutting weight, I want to cut weight. I miss cutting weight which is fking ridiculous cause when I cut weight it’s the worst thing in the world. Now I don’t ever want to cut weight again, I’m gonna fight heavyweight. Fk it. Now when I’m around him and he’s cutting weight I’m like ‘Man, I miss cutting weight.’ I got a couple years left so…. maybe.”
Sean ‘Shorty Rock’ Santella and Why Isn’t He in the UFC?”
“I have no f**king clue. Sean, off of his résumé alone, he deserves to be there. He’s got three finishes in his last four fights. He doesn’t have to do anything more to be in the UFC. He’s done everything. There’s absolutely no reason he shouldn’t be in the UFC.”