Wow. What a fight, and what a Champion! Folks, I’m not a huge UFC fan. But when it comes to Stipe Miocic, you won’t find a more passionate fan in his corner whenever he fights! It’s been three days since he defeated Daniel Cormier at UFC 252 in Las Vegas to defend his Heavyweight Championship, and I still can’t get over how good he is.
For those of you who don’t know, Stipe Miocic (Pronunciation: Stee-pay Me-o-chitch) is from Cleveland, Ohio. He’s been fighting in the UFC since 2011. In that time, he has won the World Heavyweight Championship twice (in 2016 vs. Fabricio Werdum, and 2019 vs. Daniel Cormier), and knocked out most of the opponents he’s fought. It’s like he’s beaten a murderers row of UFC legends, past and present. Andre Orlovski, Mark Hunt, Junior Dos Santos, Fabricio Verdum, Francis Ngannou, Alistair Overeem, and now Daniel “DC” Cormier twice. The guy is the complete package as a fighter, Champion and person inside and outside the octagon.
I’ve only seriously followed Stipe since late 2015 or early 2016. I first heard of him in 2015 when I visited my now ex girlfriend. Her friend was ranting and raving about how dominant he was. I didn’t know who he was at the time. But boy did I learn soon enough! The next year, he won the Heavyweight Championship as a BIG underdog in Brazil with this incredible knockout:
I unfortunately didn’t get to see the knockout live, as I hadn’t bought the fight on Pay Per View, but I watched it over. And over. And over again on YouTube. I could not help myself. Folks, the only other person I’ve ever heard of knocking someone out while backpedaling was the great Muhammad Ali himself! But that right hook, and the fact that Stipe proudly mentioned Cleveland in the post-fight interview INSTANTLY made me like him. He also kicked off arguably the greatest run in Cleveland sports history. He won the title in May 2016. Next, the Lake Erie Monsters, an AHL hockey team won their championship, the Calder Cup. Then, the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off an improbable comeback against a nearly invincible Golden State Warriors team in the NBA Finals to win the World Championship. After that, in October 2016, the Cleveland Indians made it to the World Series for the first time since 1997, only barely losing to the Chicago Cubs in Game 7. Some fans still swear up and down that if a rain delay hadn’t occurred in extra innings, the Tribe would’ve captured yet another Championship for Cleveland. I absolutely believe they would have.
But my fandom for Stipe as a fighter was born out of that great run for the city. He lit the fuse. He started everything that year. After 2016, I was hooked. I had to learn more about his fighting style, and who he was as a person outside the octagon. What made this badass Croatian dude from Cleveland so lovable to so many people?
Stipe: The Fighter
In the 27-year history of the UFC, there have been many great champions, too numerous for me to name off. But to me, what has made Stipe so great inside the octagon comes down to three things: his ability to evolve and get better, his conditioning, and his intelligence when it comes to beating his opponent. He may have a great 20-3 record after taking down fellow future Hall of Famer Daniel Cormier this past weekend, but after each of those three losses he’s suffered, he’s gotten exponentially better. After his first career loss, a knockout at the hands of Stefan Struve back in 2012, he had seriously considered abandoning MMA altogether. He was that devastated. But to paraphrase what he said in an interview with Joe Rogan, he eventually realized that it wasn’t the end of the world if he lost. He began to view UFC fights as a contest, and became less nervous. And this allowed him to pick himself back up, get on a roll again, and continue learning how to get better as he went along. That’s one of the marks of a true Champion!
Inside the octagon, Stipe’s style is really tough to beat. Thanks to his background as an NCAA Division I wrestler at Cleveland State, and a Golden Gloves Boxing Champion, he can not only get the job done if the fight goes to the ground, he can knock people out cold if he has to. It’s a deadly game of pick your poison!
His conditioning is otherworldly too. I know all UFC fighters train hard. As they should. It’s a grueling, nasty sport. But Stipe’s stamina and endurance is right up there with the best of ’em. Not only can he knock people out, or wrestle them, he can outlast most of them too. I’d say that most UFC fighters could probably be just fine in a standard three round fight (three five-minute rounds). But Championship fights? Those require some serious staying power! Five five-minute rounds requires world-class conditioning! So Stipe has many ways he can beat his opponents.
Stipe: Man of the People
It amazes me how different Stipe is in the octagon compared to when he’s not fighting. When he’s in there squaring off with his latest opponent, pardon my French folks, but he’s the meanest bastard you’ll ever see! He’s nasty! But outside of it? It’s like he’s a whole different person. He’s goofy, hilariously funny, and friendly with fans while also remaining incredibly humble. He’s just a humble firefighter and paramedic who helps people as much as he can.
This is where a lot of fans love Stipe. He doesn’t carry himself like a UFC superstar, even though he’s definitely earned the right to be that way if he wanted. No. He’s just the blue collar everyman from Cleveland with a wife and daughter who happens to be a firefighter…when he’s not kicking ass! He’s so relatable. While being this way may not earn him the respect of UFC President Dana White, it undoubtedly has earned him MILLIONS of fans all over the world. He’s one of us! I love this video of him with his little daughter too. If that doesn’t make you smile, laugh, or mist up, I don’t know what would!
That video was recorded after he lost the title to Daniel Cormier in July 2018. But he eventually made good on his promise to get the belt back, knocking out DC last August to regain the Championship. And three days ago, those two settled the score, with Stipe winning their third and final battle by points decision.
For me, being a supporter of Stipe Miocic is more than just supporting a badass fighter from my home state of Ohio. It’s cool watching him fight, no question. But I support him because he inspires me to pull myself up if I’m struggling, because he’s done the same thing. And it’s impossible not to root for him when he’s nice to other people, even though he’s a world-famous athlete. He’s a bad dude with big knockout power, but at his core he’s a good man with an even bigger heart! I hope I one day get to meet him in person. God bless Stipe!