As Miles Johns rose from the canvas in Houston, he cracked a smile.
Johns wasn’t smiling because he had emerged victorious in his UFC 247 showdown with Mario Bautista, but because for the first time in his mixed martial arts career – he had lost.
Surprisingly, his TKO defeat to Bautista provided the Fortis MMA product with a moment of immediate relief.
And as he waited for Bruce Buffer to announce his first career loss to the crowd inside the Toyota Center, a new feeling began brewing for the bantamweight prospect.
“Immediately right after [being finished by Bautista], when I got up I kind of had a smile on my face, just kind of shaking it off. It was an immediate feeling of relief; I felt like it was the first time I felt like I could really be the champion,” Johns told UFC.com. “It was a strange feeling and immediately after I was like, that’s it, now I’m going to step into my next level.”
After the loss, Johns saw some doubt in the eyes of his biggest supporters. Seeing that lit a different type of fire inside Johns, the type of fire that has been burning 24/7 since February 8.
“I’m just so hungry for this win. Right now, I’m focused on the task at hand. Even the people closest to me, I can see in their eyes and I can feel them thinking ‘So how far are we going to go with this now?’” Johns said with a smirk. “Before, it was like, ‘You’re going to be the champion for sure no doubt.’ And then after that loss, just a little bit of doubt crept into their minds and now it’s fueling me and driving me.”
With each response, it’s evident that “El Chapo” can’t wait to get back in the Octagon and get rid of the taste of defeat. It’s all that has been on his mind in the lead-up to his upcoming UFC Vegas 12 bout with Kevin Natividad. He even started binge watching “The Last Dance” documentary on NBA legend Michael Jordan to fill his time outside the gym with as much competitive greatness as possible.
“I’m going to show everyone. I’ve been watching ‘The Last Dance’ and I feel that Michael Jordan-type anger and competitiveness right now,” Johns said. “I’m going to show everyone that I’m not playing.”
Johns believes he can show the bantamweight division and any doubters that he means business by displaying the “free” version of Miles Johns. When asked to describe what the “free” version of himself looks like, he cracks a different kind of smile than what donned his face that night in Houston before responding with pure confidence.
“Violent, extremely violent. I know that my cardio is there. I know that everything is there. Kind of what Dana White said [when I was awarded a contract on Contender Series]; that guy is a savage. I’m way more violent and I’m way more fast-paced,” Johns said. “I’m ready to let it all go and bring violence and bring fun. When I’m having fun and I’m trying to hurt people, that’s why I do this and that’s when I’m at my best.”
Sometimes a loss can benefit a fighter more than a win, and in the case of Johns, it certainly seems that his loss to Bautista might have been the catalyst that the 26-year-old needed to get over the hump.
“Sometimes winning can make you a little bit conservative, like you want to hang on to what you have and I think I wanted to really hang on to that undefeated record. Even though it wasn’t in the forefront of my mind I think it was in the back of my mind and making me kind of hold back a little bit. So that last fight, getting that loss out of the way and experiencing all that has freed me up,” Johns said before adding one last statement.
“I feel like a whole new fighter and you’re going to see that Saturday night.”