The Johnson City mixed martial artist recently returned from Las Vegas, where he was part of season 19 of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s popular reality series that debuts April 16 on Fox Sports 1.
“With me being in this sport, I can never imagine the goal being anything less than the UFC,” said Minton, 26. “This sport is painful. It costs you a lot emotionally and physically. You will never get back what you put into it. If your goal is not the UFC, there is no other reason to put yourself through this.”
Minton, the area’s only fighter to compete for the UFC, has put himself through more than most are willing to do. He was accepted for the Ultimate Fighter two years ago, but was suffering from a severe case of the flu when it was time to depart the Tri-Cities. Once he arrived in Las Vegas for weigh-ins and the initial round of fights, he couldn’t quit vomiting. He lost consciousness three times and felt his life could end at any moment.
“It was terrifying,” Minton said. “I had the flu when I went, but when the UFC calls, in my eyes, there is no excuse not to answer it. I could have died. The producers were like, ‘We can’t tell you to quit.’ One of them asked me, ‘Is this something you are willing to die for?’ I was like, ‘Absolutely, it means that much to me.’ If that’s your goal, you should be willing to die for it. I want to have stories that no else will have to talk about.”
Minton might have been willing to sacrifice everything, but the UFC doctors weren’t. He failed the physical to compete and was sent back home.
He suffered another setback with a training injury before returning to the cage last August when he scored a submission victory over Dameon Melton in Pigeon Forge. Minton, who wrestled in high school for Sullivan East, easily controlled the action against Melton before catching him in a triangle choke near the end of the first round.
It was no surprise that Minton would rely on his grappling skills. He has trained locally with veteran MMA campaigner Casey Oxendine and former college All-American Nate Jolly, whom he calls the best wrestler he’s ever worked with.
“It’s one of those things where you resort to your highest level of training,” Minton said. “I’ve wrestled longer, so I can go into a fight with the complete mindset that I want to strike with this guy and it seems to become a take-you-down and beat-on-you kind of scenario. It’s just ends up happening that way.”
The formula has worked so far, with Minton sporting a 5-1 professional record before his Ultimate Fighter journey. He also posted a 7-1 record as an amateur, winning the ISKA Tennessee state middleweight title and the United States middleweight title.
Still, training in Las Vegas was a different kind of experience.
“When you go to Las Vegas, you see the people you want to beat every day,” said Minton, who owns the Colosseum fitness gym in Johnson City. “Las Vegas is the home of UFC, so it’s a whole different atmosphere. A cauliflower ear is like a VIP card in Las Vegas. They see you have a mangled ear and they love you.”
The physical part of recovering from a tough fight is enough to discourage most. It’s the mental burden, however, that truly makes it hard for those to be successful in the sport.
“The toughest part of MMA is the dedication it takes to make it to an elite level,” he said. “I played baseball, football and all that growing up. It was after school and you play football on Friday. The end of the season, you goof off for a few months. With MMA if you really want to make it, the sport consumes everything you do. Every meal, you have to eat it with a fight in mind. You have to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. You have to train enough, faithfully train and train the right way. It’s not a sport that pays a lot until you get to the upper levels, so you’re working a lot of hours for a little money. There is no down time with MMA, so all the time you have to commit to it is definitely the hardest part.”
Follow us: JCPress on Twitter | JohnsonCityPress on Facebook