Adam Milstead had a successful amateur run in MMA, and he was eager to get his pro career off to a similarly blazing start in 2011.
“Because I was so amped up for the opportunity to fight as a professional athlete, I had all these crazy ideas of what I was gonna do to make it seem that I was awesome,” laughs the newest member of the UFC heavyweight roster, a young man who didn’t exactly succeed that first time out against Dane Bonnigson.
“I found out real quick that there’s a reason why they call them professionals,” Milstead said of that pro debut. “I was more intrigued with what the fans wanted than what I wanted out of the fight, and that was my immaturity coming into it. I did a stupid jumping spinning back kick, landed in the wrong stance and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground and I had no idea what the heck happened.”
Milstead lost that night, but the next day he was back in the gym.
“I had to beat it out of me,” he laughs.
He hasn’t lost since, winning seven fights in a row, five by knockout and two by submission. And after three straight first round knockouts that lasted a little over a combined four minutes, he got a call from the big show.
“It was unexpected, and there were times when I was ready to give up, but I just kept pushing forward, and the next thing I know, my manager (UFC vet Charles McCarthy) ended up giving me a call and he said ‘you are UFC bound,’ and I was flipping out. I was so excited.”
At 28, the Pittsburgh prospect injects some youth into a division where the only fighter currently in the top 15 is 29-year-old Jared Rosholt, and just the fact that he would attempt a jumping spinning kick shows the level of athleticism the former Division III college football player brings to the Octagon. In fact, his first love was playing on the gridiron.
“I had hopes of being a professional football player, but then MMA came into my life and I ended up loving that a lot more,” Milstead said. “When I first started this, I had no idea where I was gonna be, but when I eventually got to the point where I started being recognized, the UFC was my dream, and that’s what I wanted to do.”
And after doing a number on his heavyweight opponents on the local scene following his 205-pound debut and getting in plenty of good work with top contender Stipe Miocic, the 6-foot-3 Maryland native felt that he was ready to battle the best in the UFC.
“I feel like I’ve accomplished everything I can in the MMA world from a local standpoint and I’ve been offered some national stuff with other smaller promotions, but it really didn’t appeal to me and that’s why I was really striving to get into the UFC because I feel like that’s my next path. I get to accomplish something more than I have ever dreamed of doing.”
No date or opponent has been determined for Milstead’s debut, but when he does step into the Octagon for the first time, it will be a victory even before the cage door shuts.
“When I came up here (to Pennsylvania) originally, I had to drop out of college because I didn’t have enough money and I ran into some really hard times,” he said. “MMA actually saved me. It brought me to a lot of people who wanted to help me out and take care of me and push me in the right direction. It gave me a big support group and it gave me purpose in my life.”