In terms of fan support for hometown fighters, Cleveland offered one of the most electric atmospheres in recent memory at UFC 203.
That scene reached a crescendo for Stipe Miocic’s walkout and subsequent knockout victory over Alistair Overeem in the evening’s main event at Quicken Loans Arena. While the Independence, Ohio, native appreciated the love, he admittedly felt far less pressure when he initially claimed the heavyweight crown with a first-round stoppage of Fabricio Werdum in front of more than 40,000 hostile Brazilian fans at UFC 198 last May.
“I would totally rather fight in Brazil. It was a lot easier for me, honestly,” Miocic said at the post-fight press conference. “Just the last four months have been crazy in my life. He [Overeem] thought I was partying and all that, but fortunately I was training really hard for this fight. I got married, did all that. I’m going to take some time for myself, go on a honeymoon with my wife, treat her.”
It doesn’t appear that Miocic will return to defend the title before the conclusion of 2016. The Strong Style Fight Team stalwart isn’t asking for an extended layoff, but he does need a little bit of a layoff to recharge. Until then, he isn’t especially concerned about deciding whether his next challenger will be Werdum, Cain Velasquez or someone else.
“I need to take some time to myself,” he said. “Everyone else gets a year, year and a half. I just need a few months. Right now, I don’t care who they put in front of me. I’m going to be champ for a long time.”
In making his first title defense, which is only one away from tying the UFC all-time record for heavyweight title defenses, Miocic had to survive one precarious moment in the early going. Overeem dropped the firefighter with straight left hand and then pounced to secure a guillotine. Miocic eventually escaped and put the pressure on his Dutch opponent. The end occurred when Miocic caught a kick and took Overeem to the canvas before unloading three heavy right hands on the ground to score a knockout victory 4:27 into round one.
“I knew exactly what he was doing,” Miocic said. “He was slowing down. I started catching him. I knew eventually I was going to get him. Fortunately he got too close, I got that takedown and that’s all she wrote.”
In a post-fight interview with UFC analyst Joe Rogan, Overeem claimed that Miocic tapped to the guillotine. After makng Overeem view the replay twice on the big screen in the arena, it was clear that the champion didn’t come close to submitting. Miocic was already out of the Octagon when Overeem accused him of tapping out, but the Cleveland fans were quick to voice their displeasure.
“I heard boos and I asked what they were booing about because he [Overeem] was talking,” Miocic said. “They told me he said I tapped out. I don’t remember tapping out. I just remember punching him in the face repeatedly because he was unconscious.”
The sellout crowd and the atmosphere the provided could mean that the UFC’s first-ever trip to Cleveland won’t be its last. While Miocic might have an easier time defending his title elsewhere, he wouldn’t balk at another fight on home soil, either.
“Why would I say no? I’m not going to pick and choose where I fight,” he said. “If they want me to fight in Saturn, I’ll fight in Saturn. I don’t care. I’m the heavyweight champ of the world. I’ll fight anybody anywhere.”