The foundation of combat sports is understanding two things: distance and timing. In mixed martial arts, a fighter’s understanding of those two elements coupled with their ability to manage transitions is often the difference between a successful outcome, and not.
For Len Bentley and Devin Miller, transitioning from their respective pro fighting careers into their second act as coaches has been all about distance and timing.
Len “The Liger” Bentley began training in martial arts as a child, taking karate lessons with Allen Mohler in Irving. After watching Royce Gracie win the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) events using Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques mastered by his family, Mohler began to transition away from traditional karate to the art he wisely understood to be the future of martial arts.
Bentley continued under Mohler’s tutelage, mastering the foreign art form until it was time to go off to college. Like many young men pursuing secondary education when the tragic events of 9/11 occurred, Bentley left college behind to serve his country by enlisting in the Army.
While stationed in Washington state, Bentley’s background in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu helped him excel in the combatives program. When UFC veteran Dennis Hallman approached the Army’s combatives instructor about an Ultimate Fight Night event pitting team Victory Athletics against team Army, Bentley was all too eager to compete.
Through a string of extenuating circumstances, his first opponent ended up being Justin Davis, an experienced fighter with an 8-1 professional record on a seven-fight win streak.
The first two rounds were a back-and-forth battle. In the third round, Bentley’s toughness - which would go on to define his professional career – ended up being the difference maker as he won by TKO in the waning minutes of the bout.
“My nose was busted,” Bentley recalled. “All the sergeant majors were there. They went crazy when I won. It was exhilarating. The next morning, I woke up with blood caked on my face. I looked in the mirror, and I was like, ‘This is it. This is for me.’ I just kept going. I had a few fights, and when I got out of the Army, I started fighting full-time.”
Bentley’s professional MMA career spanned just shy of five years from June 2007 to February 2012 where he accumulated a 10-6 record. His career took him all over the United States, Canada, Russia, and even to primetime TV as a member of The Ultimate Fighter Season 13.
While most cast members hope the show will bring them fame and fortune, for Bentley it was regrettably the biggest misstep of his career. Prior to joining the cast, he was in talks with the UFC about joining the promotion. Upon the advice from his teammates, he reluctantly agreed to join the show in the spring of 2011.
As with most reality TV, reality is made up of whatever footage survives the cutting room floor. Bentley recounted a number of instances where the events that transpired in their totality and what viewers saw during the shows airing were not one in the same. The editing process of taking countless hours of footage and clipping it down to fit the time constraints of the program’s time slot did far more to damage Bentley’s reputation within the fight world than anything that transpired inside the cage.
“I wasn’t ever one of those guys who said I wanted to be a world champion,” Bentley said. “I just wanted to make my living as a fighter. I had a good career. It took me all over the world. But if I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t have done the show.”
Once his fighting career was over, the transition away from being a professional fighter was not an easy one. By his own admission, it’s taken a decade’s worth of distance for him to come to terms with being retired.
“It’s hard for me to watch any of the UFC fights,” Bentley said. “I watch those fights and think, ‘I could be that guy.’ But I know what I’m like when I’m training for a fight. I’m mean. And I don’t want to be that person.”
With his fighting career behind him, Bentley returned to DFW in 2013. That’s when he met a teenaged Miller with dreams of making his own way as a professional fighter once he came of age.
But coming of age wasn’t really something Miller was willing to wait for.
“My junior year of high school, I had my parents sign off on a waiver saying I could go fight in some local event,” Miller recounted. “I started fighting at 17. I went 6-1 as an amateur. In 2018 I turned pro. I went 5-3 as a pro. I’ve been on TV three times for LFA (Legacy Fighting Alliance). My last fight was a year and a half ago.”
Miller began training jiu jitsu at age 9. By age 20 he’d earned his black belt. As much as he enjoyed fighting, his true passion is teaching.
So, when Bentley was approached about becoming the Combat Programs Manager at the newly-opened Fortified Fitness here in Aledo, the timing couldn’t have been better for Miller to come along on this new adventure.
In just a few short months, the duo have made great strides in building a premier program for combat sports enthusiasts across a broad spectrum of disciplines regardless of age, goals, or fitness level. In fact, the kids jiu jitsu program went from just starting out to bustling in a matter of a couple weeks.
Whether the person walking through the door is just looking for something new to add to their fitness routine, is interested in learning self-defense, or if they are looking to be a serious competitor themselves, Bentley and Miller want to make Fortified Fitness the premier martial arts destination in DFW.
“Another thing that is the camaraderie,” Miller pointed out. “All my best friends are fighters and jiu jitsu people, because I train every day. It’s like a football team. We’re all teammates in here. We all have different goals. I like to compete. Len has no intention to compete. But we’re still training together. We’re still team members.”
Miller’s love of competition was on full display recently when he competed in the American Grappling Federation’s Texas State Tournament back in October. He competed in the featherweight male gi (uniform) black belt division, featherweight male no gi black belt division, and the up to 175-pounds male black belt Challenger I division, where he captured gold in each category.
Even though one of them still desires to officially compete while the other doesn’t, both Miller and Bentley agree competition is essential in helping each of us become our best self at whatever stage of life we’re in.
“I’ll be 41 this year,” Bentley said. “I have literally been competing my entire life. I don’t want to compete anymore. I don’t want to go to jiu jitsu tournaments. I don’t want to fight anymore. But, I like helping people. I like being on the mat with people. I need that in my life. I still need some form of competitiveness in my life.”
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