Perhaps it's fitting that Newton native Miles Johns has been training to become a nurse, completing school last December. Given his extracurricular activities as a mixed martial arts fighter, that medical knowledge can come in pretty handy depending on the outcome of his bouts.
Though Johns has been fighting professionally for the past five years, compiling an 8-0 record in that time frame, he was actually ready to start his nursing career in July — "was" being the key word. After getting a call from the Ultimate Fighting Championship company offering Johns a chance to participate in a contender series match on June 25 in Las Vegas, he quickly put the brakes on that nursing job and fully embraced his shot to make it on MMA's biggest stage.
"With this opportunity and possibly being able to get a contract, I've put that to the side just to give everything to this dream that I have," Johns said. "I mean, if I get this contract then that means that I can really make this into my job instead of more so a hobby that I sometimes get paid for."
As part of UFC president Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series, Johns is scheduled to take on Richie Santiago (7-1) in a bantamweight fight on the main card. It's a chance that has been two years in the making, according to Johns, who knew it would eventually come if he kept piling up wins.
Racking up wins is all Johns has done since turning pro and joining Fortis MMA out of Dallas, competing in the Legacy Fighting Alliance. In his last four matches over a span of two years, Johns has three wins by decision (two unanimous) and one by submission. He had planned to fight again in early 2019 but had to recover from a hand injury he suffered following his last match in November 2018.
Following his then-girlfriend (now wife) to Dallas helped put Johns on this path. He noted his training with Fortis MMA has truly prepared him for this opportunity with UFC.
"It's really just grinding. I feel like here in Dallas we grind harder than every other team," Johns said. "We had five guys get signed to the UFC from the contender series last season. I'm the first one of our team this season. I just feel like we're at a different level than the guys who come in to the contender series. We're ready for the UFC, and it shows when we fight."
Fighting is something Johns has always enjoyed, from his start as a wrestler at Newton High School to his career in the MMA, making for a natural progression.
That wrestling background also influences his fighting style, Johns said, a mix between that and boxing — though he is also focused on putting on a show for the crowd.
"I like to get in people's faces, start hitting them really hard and I just like an exciting fight, something the fans want to see. I know that I'm in the entertainment business, so I'm here to entertain as well as win," Johns said.
Getting his shot at the UFC now has also brought Johns full circle. While following his wife to Dallas helped put him on his current path, now it is his two sons he will be fighting for when he enters the octagon on June 25 with a chance to take the next big step in his fighting career.
Over the course of his career, Johns noted his hometown of Newton has always been with him. In particular, he said his experiences in the NHS wrestling program — being part of the 5A state runner-up team in 2012 — helped fuel his competitive drive. Now, he is ready to take that a step further.
"That experience, that four years wrestling with that team and leading a championship team just molded me into the grinder and hard worker that I am now. I feel like still, because of that work and the continued work after, that if it comes down to it and we get into the deep water that I have the heart and I have the grit to pull it out over all of my competition," Johns said. "I've been training to win, I'm gonna fight to win and I expect to win. I'm going in there to win the fight and after that I'm gonna be ready to make my title run."
UFC contender series fights will start at 7 p.m. June 25 and can be streamed on ESPN+.