It makes sense that Stipe Miocic’s title-winning victory over Fabricio Werdum in May would spawn a lengthy goodwill victory tour.
After all, Miocic is a native of Cleveland, a championship-starved city that went approximately a half-century without hoisting a trophy or title or any kind. When Miocic’s knockout of Werdum preceded the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Finals upset of the Golden State Warriors, it was only natural that a celebration would ensue.
However, Alistair Overeem, Miocic’s opponent in the UFC 203 (current odds) headliner on Saturday, recently questioned whether the newly-minted champion is as motivated as he previously was.
“It’s all about whether he can stay focused,” Overeem told assembled media. “If you’re doing the appearances and the pool parties – because yes, we have seen Stipe at several of them. Not one, but several.
“He’s enjoying the life, and that’s not a bad thing. But know somebody’s coming and somebody’s going to take that belt, and he’s not going to enjoy life.”
At a press conference on Thursday, Miocic denied that his focus has waned, despite the increasing list of obligations that accompany being a champion.
“Everywhere I go, every time I do an appearance I have a coach and a training partner with me,” he said. “Nothing changed with my training. I’m training harder than ever before. I’m just ready to go. Nothing changed with my training -- actually training’s gotten harder.”
In addition to having more demands on his time, the Ohio firefighter will face the added pressure of fighting in his hometown against a dangerous opponent in a division that isn’t known for stability at the top. Overeem, who knocked out Jackson-Wink MMA counterpart Andrei Arlovski to earn the No. 1 contender spot on home soil, is aware of both the positives and negatives that accompany competing in familiar territory.
“Did I have an advantage in Holland? My last fight was in my country, in Rotterdam. It did give a little extra boost,” Overeem said. “I can’t deny that. It does give you a little bit more shivers. On the other hand there’s the extra appearances that you have to do. Everybody wants a piece of you. It’s kind of a little bit of a drag on you as well. It depends on how you handle it. I think with my 86 fights and 22 years of competing and training, I’ve been able to handle it very well.
“I’ll be curious to see how Stipe handles it. He seems very professional, but we’ll see on Saturday.”
Still, Miocic is adamant that Saturday night will simply be another evening at the office when all is said and done.
“This is business. I’m going to go out there and do my job. I’ve trained really hard. I’ve trained too hard to just give it up. I worked hard to get this title. I’m going to win. You’ll find out how when my hand is raised,” he said. “Overeem’s a veteran, he’s fought the best in the world. He’s a great kickboxer, he’s a big and strong guy who’s good on the ground, too. It’s going to be crazy walking out there, but all I’m focused on is the task at hand.”