While Adam Milstead has already made some waves with his country music stylings, you have to wonder if after a year on the sidelines rehabbing a knee injury suffered in his bout with Curtis Blaydes, those country love songs turned into some form of death metal.
“It should be, right?” he laughs. “Just a bunch of screaming.”
Milstead can joke about it now, as he is a day away from returning to the Octagon to face Jordan Johnson at UFC 222 in Las Vegas. But that last year?
“It was chaotic, but hopefully, in the end, rewarding,” he said. “It taught me a lot about who I am as a person and dealing with adversity. I think I grew a lot stronger and, win or lose, I’m just happy to step back in that cage again.”
When he does, the 30-year-old will do so at 205 pounds, opting to leave behind the heavyweight division after a loss to Blaydes that was later overturned to a no contest when the Chicago product tested positive for marijuana. Yet despite not having a loss on his record, Milstead doesn’t dismiss what happened on fight night in Houston in February 2017.
“The reason I decided to go to 205 was because my body has always felt better there,” he said. “I wasn’t getting injured at all, really, so I think the blunt force of dealing with my weight plus the weight of somebody else nearly 300 pounds was just a little too much stress on my body. It had a lot to do with the injury.”
A fight week bout with bronchitis didn’t help his performance either, and when it was over, he had an injury that could have been career threatening.
“I could barely stand on my knee, it was so bad,” Milstead said. “There was a lot of hope and a prayer. That whole week was a lot of guessing and wondering if maybe I made a mistake trying to do something at heavyweight. I was beating myself up, watching the fight constantly, saying, I should have done this, I should have done that. But what it came down to was that it just wasn’t a good night for me. And I had to live with that and smack myself back to reality and realize that we had some work to do.”
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Once his knee was back in working order and the move to light heavyweight was confirmed, it was clear that if Milstead can get a string of wins together, he could be a player at 205 pounds sooner rather than later. But “The Prototype” isn’t allowing himself the luxury of looking too far ahead.
“I just need to get back in that win column first,” he said. “But there’s always that benefit. The light heavyweight division is pretty wide open and there doesn’t seem to be anybody truly giving the champion a run for his money. So hopefully I can be there. But right now, it’s tunnel vision on Saturday.”
It’s a sentence he’s been waiting to say since February 2017. Now he can.
“A lot of moments have been about trying to ask myself if I’m truly ready or if I’m stepping in there too early,” he said. “But a few weeks ago, when I started seeing the weight drop and my bones and joints started feeling a little bit better and my coaches were lifting me up when I was really down on myself, I got motivated again. It’s a fight. It’s not that complicated. Just get in there and give it everything you got to be the best.”