Miles Banks: D1 basketball player to MMA prospect

Miles Banks, MMA, Houston, Texas
Mandatory Credit: Marc Ray

Toughness and physicality are two characteristics that make up a center in basketball. The players at ‘the five’ position have to be strategic on offense and play gritty defense. The same traits apply to a mixed martial artist. 

Miles Banks has always had a hustler mentality. Growing up in Queens, he lived his life at a fast pace. New York, a multicultural and overcrowded state, helped him grow into a go-getter. 

“We live crazy lives, even the most average person probably lives a pretty crazy life from New York because of the things you’re exposed to on a daily basis,” Banks said. “It’s not like anywhere else, anything can happen anywhere.”

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Determined to find an opportunity for success, Banks turned to basketball. He joined the Martin Van Buren high school team, where he got his start playing center. After playing only one year of basketball, Banks became a Division I athlete. The opportunity allowed him to gain education, travel to different places and build new connections.

Banks (#22) competed for Kilgore College from ‘13-’15. His height was listed as 6’8. According to the NCAA, 3.5% of men basketball players move from high school to the college ranks. Only 1.2% play in the NBA. 

Miles Banks Found A New Passion

Although he liked playing, Banks decided that basketball wasn’t the endgame. He wanted to become successful but not at the expense of being someone that he’s not. 

“I enjoyed basketball but the politics behind it, the people you got to deal with and then the way that people try to control you and manipulate you to be what they want you to be and if I can’t be me, in any situation, I don’t want to be in it.”

The basketball chapter of Banks’ life was over after college. Now, it was time to find a new path and Banks was hell-bent on making it in the world. 

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In 2018, his brother suggested taking an MMA class. It turned out to be a game-changer. 

Banks started training muay thai and jiu-jitsu. He was new to the MMA scene but growing up in Queens, he always had a fighter state of mind. 

“When I first got into MMA, it wasn’t for money. I like to fight and I grew up fighting,” Banks said. “It wasn’t necessarily like a career thing for me but then I just realized I’m pretty good at it. It could’ve been an opportunity to do some good things so I took advantage of it.” 

In a blink of an eye, Banks started competing. He got a few muay thai fights under his belt and then made the transition to MMA. Banks decided to move to Houston, Texas, and join WAR Training Center, a local gym that trains the next generation of fighters. 

WAR Training Center is located in Tomball, Texas. Several fighters train at the MMA gym under coaches Jeremy Mahon and Richard Copley.

WAR Training Center owner Jeremy Mahon has trained many athletes throughout his coaching career. He has noticed that athletes, like Banks, use their playing experience as an advantage.

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“Athletes who transition from another sport are often able to take things from their previous sport and apply them to MMA. A few examples would be, baseball players have great eye-hand coordination, basketball players usually have good footwork and body awareness, soccer players come in with eye-foot coordination and accuracy kicking a moving target. Many of these things have been developed over the course of years, so they naturally can be ahead in certain areas.”

Switching from one sport to another can be challenging. The transition can be frustrating but depending on how the two sports overlap, a competitor can implement their athleticism to a new pastime. 

Banks’ teammate James Ford understands the process of change. The Cincinnati native is a former D1 college wrestler turned mixed martial artist. He attended Purdue University and later transferred to Ohio State University. Since his start in MMA, Ford has used the mentality he gained as a college athlete and believes Ford has done the same. 

“When you’re at the top percent of your sport, you pick up on things along the way that help you get to that level,” Ford said. “I think what mostly translated [for Banks] is the work ethic… People that are good at something are able to control their athleticism.”

Banks working with WAR Training Center teammate James Ford

Coach Mahon has seen improvements from Banks since he started at WAR. The two main factors are his IQ and cage work. 

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“I think much of what made Miles a good basketball player are the same things that make him a great fighter. His God given abilities, like his size are obviously one of them…Miles has great body awareness and sense of balance on his feet and in the air that I’m certain basketball contributed to.”

Banks has found early success in MMA. In January, he made his heavyweight debut for Fury FC, where he threw an overhand right to win by first-round knockout. Banks kept the momentum going. His next three fights were also KO wins. He became the Fury Amateur Heavyweight Champion and remains unbeaten. 

“Being a big man in the post, your footwork is everything. Lateral movements and defense are definitely super transferable but also attention to detail, and understanding how to read body language and things like that,” said Banks. “Those are intangible skills like you can’t touch it, you can’t see it, you can’t feel it.”

Whether it was grabbing a rebound in a stadium or throwing punches in the octagon, Banks has worked towards competing at the highest level. His goal is to go pro and fight the best in the world. Every practice round is a step closer to his dream of fighting on the biggest stage in MMA. 

“I want to be the greatest I can possibly be. I don’t see any reason why I can’t be one of the greatest heavyweights that ever lived and ever fought in the sport.”