Adam Milstead just wanted the UFC to cover his medical bills.
The fighter blew out his ACL during his scrap with Curtis Blaydes at UFC Fight Night 104 in February, requiring a full reconstructive surgery to repair the damage. Following the surgery is a lengthy physical therapy process, one he's still undergoing.
So when the physical therapist's office declined the UFC's insurance after less than two months of therapy and instead billed his personal insurance, Milstead was baffled. After contacting the UFC, he learned their insurance would only cover 20 visits. He still had months to go.
He was pissed.
Taking to Twitter, Milstead voiced his displeasure in full.
It was that tweet, however, that changed everything. A text message from UFC Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance followed, then the good news began.
"About four hours later that night [of the tweet], I got a call from Jeff Novitsky," Milstead told FloCombat in an exclusive interview. "He actually texted me, and he said, 'Hey, man, I heard you had an issue. I want to talk to you about it.' I started perking up a little bit, thinking maybe they were going to do something about it."
After various conversations, the UFC did, in fact, do something about it.
"Eventually he hit me up and said they're going to cover my next 20 visits and stay in touch with my physical therapist to coordinate with him to see if I need more," Milstead said. "I was grateful for it--and this is coming off being really pissed off and thinking, 'What's the point of fighting and risking injury and possibly not being able to fight anymore or even work for a living?' Then he tells me that, and it definitely makes me feel a little better."
While Milstead was heated in the moment, he now realizes his anger toward the UFC was misplaced. After going through the process, sending emails, making phone calls, texting different people, and more, he noticed the UFC's structure isn't as simple to navigate as he thought.
"It made me realize something about the UFC: There are so many different stages in the organization," Milstead said. "There are so many middle grounds you have to get through before you can get noticed, and I think that's the biggest problem, is that everything on the lower side, like people who are just told what to do, they have a book they have to go off basically. They're just reading out of the book.
"It made me feel better and it made me realize what I need to do if I need help from the UFC--I need to find my way through the middle ground and get to the higher-ups and talk to them and tell them about my situation. As far as I'm concerned, any time I've ever done that, I've been taken care of by the UFC."
For fighters who feel unable to reach the right party, however, Milstead offers some advice after his recent tangle: keep trying. Ask questions, pry for references, and stay on them until you get what you what.
"I'm proud to fight for the greatest organization mixed martial arts has ever seen," Milstead said. "I want fighters to really pull in all the contacts they can for the UFC. Really pull in everybody. If one contact says you can't do something, find somebody else. If they can't do it for you, find somebody else. Ask them, 'Hey, do you have somebody else's number in the organization I can get a hold of?' Just keep fighting."
Now taken care of on the recovery front, Milstead turns his attention back to fighting. Previously unsure if he would continue his career at all, he's fired up now, and he's making a drastic change. The longtime heavyweight will return to the division in which he made his pro debut.
"I'm thinking I'm going to have to give up the beer and pizza for a little bit and drop down to 205," Milstead said. "I haven't been 205 since my pro debut in 2011. It's been a while, but it's nothing more than mental. I'll tell anybody, 'Everybody can lose weight. Anybody can get to where they need to be in life. Ninety percent of that is going to be mental. The other 10 percent is just doing it.'
"I'm going to do it, man. I'm going to make a couple trial cuts, see how I feel. I'm already in a position right now where I can start cutting down on an eight-week period, so I don't think it'll be that difficult. I grew up in the wrestling rooms. I was losing weight when I was six years old for wrestling, so I'm not new to this stuff."
Thankfully for Milstead, he's a small heavyweight, weighing 235 at his heaviest during his UFC debut against Chris de la Rocha. Against Blaydes, Milstead said he actually upped his caloric intake significantly throughout camp, downing "two or three" protein shakes a day in hopes of packing on some pounds. Still, he only maintained a constant weight around 230, so that gives him extra confidence a move to 205 will be easily achieved.
"I was eating constantly," Milstead said. "I just could not put the weight on. The harder the opponent, the harder I work, and unfortunately, the harder you work, the more calories you burn off."
For a final bit of motivation, Milstead feels his next fight will mark a significant step in his overall journey as a fighter. Coming back from a full ACL reconstruction--and finding a happy resolution in a spat with the UFC in the process--would be a major win, and it's one he looks forward to notching.
"I want to make a comeback," Milstead said. "I want people to look at me and say, 'Man, this guy went through a lot and he came out on top. He got back in the cage and he didn't quit.' That's what I want to be.
"Having this idea that I can't quit is going to be my downfall, but until that moment happens, I'm going to continue fighting for what I want most. I want to put on a show. I want people to recognize me for being a hard-nosed, hard-working individual who never gave up, who never quit when things got tough. Having the UFC do what they did for me really re-energized me."
FloCombat's hottest content, delivered to your inbox
Don't miss breaking news, feature stories, event updates, and more. Sign up for the FloCombat mailing list today.