When Stipe Miocic fought Junior dos Santos at UFC on Fox 13 in December 2014, it was declared “Fight of the Night.” Extra paycheck aside, it’s something that Miocic has had on his mind ever since.
The Cleveland native hasn’t lost since dropping a unanimous decision to dos Santos that night and along the way, he’s scooped up the UFC’s heavyweight championship. Miocic has turned into a wrecking machine since that defeat, finish Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum and Alistair Overeem in succession. He told the media recently that he had learned quite a bit from that loss to dos Santos, which was his first-ever five-round fight.
“You always look at [the fight], see all the things I did wrong in the fight,” Miocic said ahead of his rematch with dos Santos at UFC 211 on Saturday. “I did a lot of things wrong with my first five-round fight. So, me and my coaches watched over that film to see what he did well and see what I did wrong, and what I did well, and what he did wrong. And we went over a lot of stuff and definitely have a game plan for my next fight.”
His first meeting with “JDS” was a brutal affair, one that saw both men battering each other for 25 minutes. But the Strong Style Fight Team representative said he looked much worse than he really was and that he was back in the gym sooner than expected.
“You know, it was a fight, I had a swollen eye,” he stated. “I had some stitches inside my mouth, but it’s part of the game I guess. It sucked for about a week but after a week, I felt fine. I was good to go. I still had the stitches in my mouth but in a little over a week, they got taken out. It wasn’t too bad, but I definitely had a lot of bumps and bruises.”
While Miocic says that he doesn’t actively search out the knockout when he fights, he has been racking them up consistently. The former NCAA Division I wrestler said that the knockouts just come based on his gameplan and how he executes what he mastered in the gym, but he knows that he never wants any of his fights to go to the judges. He doesn’t expect his rematch with dos Santos to go to the three cageside officials, either.
“Listen, I never want to go to the judges,” he said. “That’s one of the main rules and I lost the last fight. Nothing I can do about it. But a lot has changed in the last, what, three and a half, three years. I’m a champ now. There’s a reason why I’m a champ. Nothing is going to change. We’re not going to persuade anybody. I’m just going to win the fight. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Much has been made recently that a UFC heavyweight champion has never made more than two defenses of his belt before losing it. Miocic knocked Fabricio Werdum into orbit when they fought at UFC 198 to win the title and then did the same to Alistair Overeem at UFC 203 for his first defense. When asked whether there was any pressure to break the mediocre standard of past champs, the Ohioan scoffed.
“Honestly, me, I don’t really care about how many defenses I have,” he said. “All I care about is winning. I love what I do. I want to keep winning. I have trained way too hard and sacrificed way too much to give it up and I’m just different, man. I’ve gotten better every fight. I’m not declining. I’m inclining every fight and nothing is going to change.”
Whether Miocic winds up retaining his title for the second time or loses it to his old rival, one thing is certain: he’ll have much less pressure and fewer distractions coming into Saturday’s battle. When he flattened Overeem last September, his triumph took place at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland and he was being pulled in every direction. With his rematch with dos Santos happening in Dallas, he said he can focus only on the fight.
“I don’t have to be Ticketmaster now,” he said. “I can just worry about the fight, not worry about people calling me about tickets and where I’m staying at, and just going to let me do my thing. It’s going to be nice. I would love to fight in Cleveland again, but definitely it will be a different story next time.”
Miocic also claimed that he is willing to cross over into professional boxing -- like what lightweight champion Conor McGregor is trying to do with Floyd Mayweather -- and would strap up the gloves to take on the heavyweight kings of the Sweet Science. Though it may seem like an unrealistic possibility, it’s something that’s on his mind.
“I’m a champ, so I would probably want to fight a champion while they are,” he said. “(Anthony) Joshua or whatever, or (Tyson) Fury, or (Wladimir) Klitschko, or whoever. I just want to fight the best.”