Myles Jury will get a shot at stardom on Season 13 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” | Photo Courtesy: Spike TV
It takes him an average of 79 seconds -- less than a minute and a half -- to finish a fight. Nine professional opponents have climbed into the cage with him. None have seen the second round. All of it, Myles Jury believes, comes naturally.
“I feel like I have that killer instinct,” he says. “When I fight, I’m a different person. I fight to win, and I fight to finish as fast as I can.”
One of 14 welterweights cast for Season 13 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Jury spent a brief time in Las Vegas during production of the groundbreaking reality series. He saw the show -- which premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Spike TV -- as a means to an end, an avenue through which he could expedite his goals and expose his skills to a far wider audience, even though a knee injury cut short his journey.
“It was a step forward,” Jury says. “My goal is to get into the UFC, get wins and chase after the title. I was either going to get there through ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ or keep winning until they noticed me.”
Jury cut his teeth inside the King of the Cage promotion, where he compiled seven of his nine victories. He last appeared in September, when he submitted previously unbeaten Philadelphia Fight Factory representative Sam Oropeza with a first-round neck crank at the MGM Grand Casino at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Conn. Jury has displayed a polished and potent offensive attack to this point in his career; five of his wins have come by submission, four others by knockout or technical knockout.
Jury’s weaknesses are few, according to striking guru Tony Palafox, who trains the talented 22-year-old at Victory MMA and Fitness in San Diego. There, he refines his craft alongside UFC veterans Dean Lister, Jeremy Stephens and Shannon Gugerty.
“He’s a fast learner, and he enjoys what he’s doing,” Palafox says. “I train a lot of guys, and sometimes you seem them get in a rut or get confused. He absorbs it. He picks up everything so fast.”
Jury grew up in Hazel Park, Mich., a Detroit suburb in eastern Michigan that has produced its share of top athletes, from 1990 American League Cy Young Award winner Bob Welch to former Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Bill Virdon and 1984 Greco-Roman wrestling Olympic gold medalist Steve Fraser. The younger of two children, his parents divorced when he was a toddler. Jury, like many kids in the upper Midwest, dabbled in baseball and basketball before turning exclusively to wrestling in junior high school.
“I feel blessed,” he says. “I was around people who really opened my eyes, even though it wasn’t the richest or best place to grow up.”
A martial artist at heart with a background in tae kwon do, Jury started his Brazilian jiu-jitsu training under Don Richard at age 13. As a freshman at Fenton High School, he booked his first amateur fight and knocked out his foe in two minutes. Gifted as he was, the sailing was not altogether smooth. Jury still feels the sting of his one and only loss as an amateur.
“I remember the fight,” he says. “I was 16 or 17, and I was devastated. It was in St. Louis, and I got choked out in less than a minute. That let me know I wasn’t invincible. I was kind of embarrassed. We just drove home [that night]. It was about an eight-hour drive, and I did a lot of thinking. Everybody was quiet.”
Jury grew from the experience and compiled a 9-1 mark as an amateur. He turned pro at age 19 and spent two years traveling and training, as he worked under former UFC lightweight title contender Hermes Franca and current Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Dan Henderson, among others. Jury does not lack motivation.
“I’m just well-rounded and hard-working,” he says. “I want to be a champion one day. What motivates me is living the MMA lifestyle, training to get better and keeping up with opponents who are working hard, too. Hard work pays off. I’m on the right path so far. I want to fight as much as I can and be remembered as somebody who always fought with his heart.”
An all-state wrestler in high school, Jury credits the discipline for much of the success he has enjoyed inside the cage.
“Wrestling is one of the best things for MMA, from the work ethic you learn to the humility it teaches you,” he says. “It transitions to all martial arts.”
One of the sport’s fast-rising prospects, Jury has long been on the MMA community’s radar. However, with the extra attention, praise and notoriety comes more responsibility to himself, his teammates and his trainers. Distractions have derailed more than one promising career.
“The toughest challenge is staying on the right path,” Jury says. “There are so many things that try and steer you away from what you want to do. Coming up, there are people hanging around, but the bigger and more popular you become, it seems like there are some people who just want you to be popular.”
Palafox sees lack of experience as the only remaining obstacle between Jury and his becoming an elite fighter at the highest level.
“He just needs more fights and to get in there and hurt people,” he says. “He’s there. He just needs bodies in front of him.”
Palafox sees his protégé as a multi-dimensional threat in the cage. Drive, he says, separates Jury from the rest of the pack.
“He’s really one of those guys who enjoys fighting,” Palafox says. “Some guys do it to collect a paycheck. He’s doing it because it’s his life. It’s in his heart.
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