That prankster you see in the “UFC Embedded” videos? The dork who gets giddy talking about other professional Cleveland athletes? The plain-spoken Midwesterner who doesn’t call out opponents or ruffle any feathers?
For better or worse, that’s Stipe Miocic, the heavyweight champion who further solidified himself as the world’s baddest man with a dominant win in Saturday’s UFC 211 headliner.
In the featured attraction of an entertaining pay-per-view event at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) avenged a past loss and earned a crushing first-round TKO victory over ex-titleholder Junior Dos Santos (18-5 MMA, 12-4 UFC).
Miocic, the No. 1 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings (and No. 6 pound-for-pound), tied a UFC record with his second heavyweight title defense. Four men have done it before, but all have failed to notch title defense No. 3. Will Miocic be the first to do it?
“I really don’t care,” the 34-year-old said. “I mean, yeah, if I keep winning, I’ll break history. Big deal. I’m just going to keep winning. I like winning. It’s fun. I like being called champ, especially.”
Like most questions about his future and his place in history and what he wants to accomplish next, Miocic offers few details. He’ll shrug his shoulders. He’ll tell you he doesn’t know or care. He doesn’t pick his opponents, he’ll say.
In a sport where mic skills can fatten your wallet and get the UFC promotional machine behind your back, Miocic stays his genuine self – even if that self comes across like a big goofy 14-year-old who’s just happy to be along for the ride.
“Listen, I’m going to be me,” Miocic said. “What you see on ‘Embedded,’ that is how I am 24-7 – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. That’s exactly how I am.”
And that man, as seen in the latest “Embedded” installment, is one of simple tastes: metal detectors, slingshots and prematurely hanging up on his spouse (one of his favorite ongoing gags).
Twitter reacts to Stipe Miocic's TKO of Junior Dos Santos to defend title at UFC 211
“I’m surprised my wife hasn’t left me yet, because I put her through a lot of (expletive),” Miocic joked. “But I’m never going to change. They want to promote me? Awesome. But I’m not going to beg about it. I’m going to be the guy I am: a Midwest boy that loves to fight and loves to win, and he’s a fireman.”
Miocic is now 5-0 with five knockouts since his 2014 loss to Dos Santos in 2014. The past four victories, including Saturday’s Dos Santos rematch, came in the first round.
Dork or not, Miocic commands respect. That’s especially true on the Cleveland sports scene, where his title win exactly one year ago today kicked off a dazzling year for the “City of Light,” which saw the Cleveland Cavaliers win an NBA title and MLB’s Cleveland Indians pick up an American League pennant.
For a lifelong Clevelander like Miocic, who’s been embraced by both professional sports teams, it was perhaps one of the greatest byproducts of becoming UFC champ.
“It’s awesome, getting to hang out with those guys,” Miocic said. “I go to the games, and they say hi to me. They acknowledge me. It’s kind of cool. It’s like all the popular kids are like, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ (I’m like), ‘Oh my God, he just said hi to me.’ It’s kind of like that.”
So, what’s next for Mr. Cleveland? He doesn’t know. He doesn’t even seem to care. An upcoming UFC 213 bout between former champ Fabricio Werdum (21-6-1 MMA, 9-3 UFC) and Alistair Overeem (42-15 MMA, 7-4 UFC) could determine a new No. 1 contender. However, Miocic, who’s already defeated both of them during his current streak, offered a familiar shrug.
“Don’t matter; I’m going to win again,” he said. “I mean, I really don’t care. Like I said, I have the best coaches in the world. We’re going to have a better game plan walking in. We’re going to learn from our mistakes in the last fight I did, bring them in, get better, walk in and walk out with the belt still around my waist.”
For more on UFC 211, check out the UFC Events section of the site.