The common answer you get from most mixed martial artists when asked what they want next is typically the same: “whoever the UFC wants me to fight is fine with me.” Miles Johns, one of the newest members of the UFC’s bantamweight division, is taking a different approach.
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Johns recently earned a UFC contract following his unanimous decision win over Richie Santiago at Dana White’s Contender Series. The unbeaten former LFA bantamweight champion was able to score at will on the feet and on the mat — even breaking the jaw of the gritty Santiago — to impress the UFC president. Oddly enough, the Fortis MMA trained fighter dealt with a groin injury that left him far less than 100-percent.
Despite the injury, Johns wasn’t going to miss his opportunity.
“Honestly, I wasn’t happy with my performance overall,” Johns told The Body Lock.
“The groin injury definitely had a part to do with that. This whole training camp was about getting to the fight and I have a great team around me that were helping me get ready for this fight. My gas tank definitely emptied a little bit sooner than normal but I think I felt like 50-percent in there, in all honestly.
“I’m just happy that Dana loved the fight and the crowd loved the fight. I always try to bring an exciting fight and trying to go out there and take people’s heads off. When I see you standing across the cage from me, that switch just flips on and I’m going to try to take you out by any means necessary. Richie was just a zombie — walking forward, walking through shots, trying to come after me — and it made for just an awesome fight.
“When the injury happened, we knew that we had to fight.”
A lot has been made, especially during this season, when it comes to Dana White’s criteria in awarding contracts during the Contender Series. Brendan Loughnane seemed to be the most complete and experienced fighter on the season premiere of the summer favorite when he defeated Bill Algeo by unanimous decision. White would not reward Loughnane with a second chance to compete in the Octagon, mostly due to the fact that Loughnane went for a takedown with 10 seconds left in a fight he was clearly winning.
Although Johns didn’t get the finish in his bout with Santiago, he felt that a contract was certainly in his sights.
“I did feel like I had done enough to get a contract,” Johns said. “I definitely wasn’t happy with how tired I was. That’s usually not my style and I just got done with a five-round fight. I was going for broke.
“Everybody says Dana hates wrestling, but those guys have seen how many hundreds and thousands of fights. They can tell when wrestling comes into play because it’s part of the style and part of who you are. I have no issues being on my fight. I love standing and banging so I think when he sees me doing that — trying to take people’s heads off — and then adding the wrestling in and those chokes, I felt like the energy in that room was going to be enough.”
Johns’ groin injury has not allowed him to enjoy the fruits of his labor. As his teammate, mentor and now colleague Geoff Neal told him, it’s one thing to be on the roster, but you’re not a UFC fighter until you have a couple of fights in the Octagon under your belt. Johns says it will take around four weeks to get back to full-on training and once that happens, he believes things will move rather quickly.
“I want to make my UFC debut as soon as I possibly can,” Johns explained. “As soon as this is healed up, I’m going to let my coach know to let them know that we’ll be ready to go. I want to get back in there. I felt it was too long since my last fight, it had been around nine months, and I’m excited. I’m hungry.”
The bantamweight division is deep and full of talent. While most fighters are satisfied with taking any fight that the UFC offers them — and there is certainly nothing wrong with that — Johns has seemingly done the homework on his fellow 135-pound counterparts. When asked about a potential debut opponent, Johns was ready to drop some names.
“There’s a couple of guys out there,” Johns said. “Cole Smith I think is a good fight. Mitch Gagnon is a good fight, Domingo Pilarte is a good one — he was in LFA and I thought I was going to get in (on the Contender Series), but he got in before I did — Chris Gutierrez is a good fight. There’s a few guys at that level.
“People say because of my wrestling pedigree that I can be in the top-20, there’s a lot of fighters at that level who think they are top-20. Everybody in the UFC is so tough and so skilled. There’s a mental aspect that goes into that. It’s a game of inches. From that top-20 to the top-30, there’s not that much of a difference. I’m sure there’s a lot of guys who believe they are at that level but I’m here to show them that I’m just a little more ready.”
If Miles Johns had it his way, however, he would shoot a bit higher up the UFC rankings. As a matter of fact, the unbeaten bantamweight prospect has a matchup in mind that he would truly love to have in the future.
“Pedro Munhoz, I think, is an awesome fight for me,” Johns stated. “He’s my size, he’s built the same way as me, he loves to stand up and throw hands, and he has great ground. I have to get payback for my man Matt Hobart, he got the best of him back then. Obviously, he’s at the top of the ranks but I would love that fight. If Pedro had a fight, somebody dropped out and I got in there, that would be gold.”