Coming off of his UFC contract-earning win on the Contender Series over Richie Santiago, Miles Johns had Cole Smith on his short list of names he would like to make his UFC debut against and he got his wish.
“Chapo” will face Smith in his opponent’s home town of Vancouver this Saturday on UFC Fight Night 158. The event will take place at Rogers Arena and will be headlined by a lightweight bout between Justin Gaethje and Donald Cerrone.
Johns, along with his wife, were wondering when the Octagon debut date would be revealed. Now that his first UFC fight week is upon him, against an opponent he had hoped to have, it’s all a bit surreal to the unbeaten bantamweight.
“Yeah, it’s crazy,” Johns told The Body Lock. “My coach called me and I was just hanging out in Kansas with my wife and her family, and he called me up and asked me how everything was going, how I was feeling, how the groin is. I said, ‘I’m healthy, we’re doing great’, he said, ‘Good, because we’re fighting Sept. 14, Cole Smith, who you told me you wanted to fight before.’ I was like, ‘What?’, it just hit me so quick.
“My wife and I were talking and she was like, ‘I just want to know when the debut is going to be and who it’s going to be against. Is it going to be months from now?’, and I told her I would bet we’d find out soon, I just need to keep training hard. A couple of days later, boom it goes. I wasn’t expecting it to happen all that fast, but I’m so grateful that it did. I want to keep this momentum going.”
When speaking to The Body Lock following his win on the Contender Series in June, Johns was not happy with his performance overall. Despite being one of the more complete fighters on the season, the Fortis MMA product was dealing with a groin injury that hindered him in preparation for the bout — which showed in his, admittedly, lower than par gas tank in the fight with Santiago.
Johns was cleared shortly thereafter and has ramped up his overall training for his UFC debut.
“It’s feeling great,” Johns explained. “I’ve got a great team working on it right now so it’s feeling great. I’m feeling way better than I was before the Contender Series fight at this point. In that fight camp, I wasn’t even running and stuff. I’m busting hard cardio, doing everything, and I’m feeling more mobile than I ever have. It all feels great.”
Standing across the Octagon from Johns on Saturday night will be Smith, a fellow unbeaten bantamweight coming off of a short-notice UFC debut win over Mitch Gagnon at UFC Ottawa in May. Johns wanted this fight because Smith is a hard out, and also because Johns was hoping he would’ve gotten the opportunity to make his debut against Gagnon after Brian Kelleher was forced to withdraw from the late Spring bout.
“I love this fight,” Johns stated. “Nothing against Cole Smith, he’s a very good opponent and that’s why I like the fight. I like his style: tall, Muay Thai kind of a wrestler guy. I haven’t fought a lot of people like that. He’s undefeated — which is the biggest thing that I like — and I wanted that Mitch Gagnon fight that he got on short notice. I was hoping to be able to get that one and he got it, so I was like ‘all right, once I get there, we’ll have to settle that.'”
Johns will head to enemy territory for his UFC debut as Smith was born and raised in Vancouver. While many thrive on competing in their hometowns like Smith will on Saturday, Johns is happy being the away team since it will be a new challenge and experience for the 25-year-old.
“I love it! I’m coming to crash the party,” Johns said. “I know he’s going to be real excited, I know the fans are going to be there for him. He’s gonna be hyped up. It’s gonna be like it’s in his backyard. I do thrive off of that. That’s just competition. That’s the high-level competition that I just fiend for. Fighting for LFA, all these guys had to come to my backyard, and you’re not coming to my backyard and beating me. It’s just not happening. So I had that time, and now I get to go to somebody else’s backyard and beat them.
“He’s going to be hyped and ready to fight, and I am too. It’s hard to really explain, but I’m coming ready to fight. My cardio is on point, my skills are on point and I want that UFC win so bad. I want to get in there and get some wins under my belt. Cole’s got a fight on his hands. I’m ready to go in there and thrive off all that energy.”
Miles Johns has played the call your shot card once before and it paid off. While the surging 135-pound prospect is focused on the task at hand this weekend against Cole Smith, Johns understands that with a victory, the train will continue to move and he has a couple of names in mind for that purpose.
“I was impressed with Mario Bautista’s last win,” Johns said. “He showed a lot of heart and that Mexican grit. I love that! I think that would be an awesome fight. There’s a couple of people but right now, I’m solely focused on Cole and I want to go out there and perform to my level. I feel like they still haven’t seen the real Miles. Going back and watching that Contender Series fight, I’m like ‘Man, they haven’t seen the real Miles yet.’, so I’m ready to go out there and show everyone what I’m all about.”