Anyone who has followed Cleveland sports for the last 50 years knows the northern Ohio city has been plagued by colossal disasters and unfathomable collapses when it comes to championship opportunities.
The mythical “championship curse” has haunted Cleveland for years, and while superstition is really predicated on a string of random coincidences, it just seemed like the city was doomed to never celebrate the big one again.
From “Red Right 88” to “The Drive” to “The Fumble” to “The Shot” — Cleveland sports teams have become so synonymous with failure that their most monumental losses even have names attached to the particular occasions where they fell short.
Heading into UFC 198 on Saturday night, Stipe Miocic wanted to put an end to the 52-year drought that left many Cleveland fans believing they’d never celebrate another championship win.
Granted, Miocic doesn’t compete in a team sport like basketball or football, but he was fighting at the highest level of mixed martial arts for the heavyweight title most universally recognized as the best in the world. Some would even argue that boxer Shawn Porter technically brought gold back to Cleveland already, although, in the alphabet soup championship world that decorates boxing, is anyone recognized as a true linear titleholder anymore?
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) May 15, 2016
Before he stepped into the Octagon, all of the major sports teams from around Cleveland sent Miocic messages of support as he looked to bring gold home to “The Land.” It was clear that Cleveland was behind Miocic the same way he’s been a supporter of the teams there since he was a kid.
It took Miocic less than one round to get the job done as he knocked out Werdum with a vicious right hand that dropped the Brazilian face first to the canvas. A moment later, Miocic was climbing over the Octagon wall while proclaiming very loudly that he was the champion.
But it wasn’t a solitary victory. Miocic immediately acknowledged his entire team and coaches before he once again turned his attention to the city of Cleveland, who joined in his championship celebration.
“Cleveland we’ve got a champion, baby!” Miocic shouted.
In the aftermath of his win, Miocic surely enjoyed seeing so many of his hometown favorites embracing him as the champion the city has wanted for so many years.
— #VoteTribe (@Indians) May 15, 2016
Miocic promised just minutes after hoisting the UFC title above his head and then around his waist that he didn’t put any extra pressure on himself to win for Cleveland, but it was certainly implanted in the back of his head that he wanted to bring home a championship when he left Brazil.
“I didn’t believe I carried the weight. I was going to go out there and do my best job. Fabricio’s a super tough guy and he’s the champion for a reason. Actually tonight on ESPN they did a ‘30 for 30,’ they had ‘Believe-Land’ — it was a documentary about how Cleveland sports didn’t really win championships so I knew I had to put an end to it,” Miocic said.
“I had to stop the curse for us. It went well for me tonight.”
Of course, Miocic’s win won’t erase the misery that so many Cleveland fans have lived through since 1964 when the Browns last won an NFL championship.
With the Cleveland Cavaliers just eight wins away from an NBA championship headed up by hometown hero LeBron James, the city would erupt in celebration if they could finish their playoff run with a title.
HE DID IT!!! Aaannnnddd NEW!!! UFC HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION @stipemiocicufc !!!!!!!
— Yan Gomes (@Yan_AGomes) May 15, 2016
Undoubtedly, Cleveland Browns fans would probably auction off their souls if it meant they could finally find a decent quarterback and make a real run at the playoffs — something they haven’t done since the team returned to the city in 1999.
Cleveland Indians fans haven’t enjoyed baseball much over the last 20 years, but they would surely be overjoyed just to see “The Tribe” get another shot at a World Series.
But what Miocic’s win does more than anything for Cleveland is give fans hope.
The curse may really be nothing more than some hyped up nonsense that doesn’t actually exist outside of the fact that Cleveland teams just haven’t been able to win a title in over 50 years. There are plenty of cities and teams around the world who would probably sit in misery with Cleveland fans over that same fact of life as well.
Still, Miocic can truly revel in this moment after making his city proud and it appears all of Cleveland is behind him tonight as he holds his UFC title up high and proclaims his win is dedicated to the city where he was born and a place that he loves so much.
Stipe Miocic flattens Fabrício Werdum to win UFC heavyweight title – UFC 198