Stipe Miočić with Croatian fans, who describe him as a perfectly normal and pleasant person. Source fightsite.hr
Stipe Miočić with Croatian soccer jersey
Stipe Miocic shows off his UFC championship belt during an Eastern Conference Finals game between the Cavaliers and the Raptors in Cleveland. Photo by Getty Images.
UFC champ Stipe Miocic has done a great thing for Cleveland
Stipe Miocic can recount the heartbreak like each was a permanent scab. “The Cavs lost to Jordan, The Fumble, then The Drive,” he says. “I’m about to cry just bringing it up.”
Stipe Miocic is a Cleveland-area fire-fighter, who won the UFC heavyweight championship two weeks ago with a one-punch knockout of defending champion Fabricio Werdum in Brazil.
As far as Miocic is concerned, he has ended the drought that has lingered since the Browns won the NFL title in 1964, three years before the advent of the Super Bowl. Miocic, 33, has been a loyal fan of just about everything Cleveland, which is why his chest was filled with pride when the championship belt was strapped around him in Brazil.
“We’re a tough city,” Miocic told The Post last week. “We’ve always gotten the short end of the stick. We’ve always come so close. But we’re a city of blue collar workers that have each other’s backs. I’m glad I could end the curse.”
Cleveland already has benefited from the hometown hero. The UFC announced on Wednesday it will host UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena, with Miocic (14-2) making his first title defense against Alistair Overeem (41-14) on Sept. 10. It will be the UFC’s first visit to Cleveland. Expect a quick sellout. If Miocic had 45,000 Brazilians against him two weeks ago, he will be the fan favorite for UFC 203.
“Fighting in a UFC event in Cleveland has always been a dream of mine,” Miocic said. “The fact that the first UFC event in Cleveland features me defending the UFC heavyweight title in the main event is as special as it gets.”
Defending his title on his home turf is just the latest highlight in a memorable time for Miocic. A former wrestler and baseball player at Cleveland State, Miocic upset the favored Werdum and returned to a hero’s welcome upon landing in Cleveland and going to his local gym, where he went from wanting something to do to becoming the top mixed-martial artist in his division.
“It was overwhelming,” Miocic said. “I cried like a baby. I couldn’t believe it. It was so emotional. There were fans and there were a few of my friends that I didn’t expect to be there that just showed up. Then I went to the gym and my whole family and my teammates were there. So I cried again.”
Later he was saluted by the Cavaliers before Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoff game against the Raptors, where he flashed his shiny new belt to the crowd and gave the Cavs crowd a pep talk over the microphone. A few days later, he took batting practice with the Indians, launching one over the outfield wall.
“The home run was awesome,” Miocic said. “It was always one of my dreams to hit one out in a ballpark like that. Also being at the Cavs-Raptors game and walking out there and having everyone standing up and cheering was overwhelming.”
As if things aren’t going good enough, he will marry his fiancé Ryan on June 18.
“I’m marrying my best friend, so there’s nothing better than that,” he said.
Despite all these life-changing events, Miocic isn’t going to change his day job, serving as a firefighter and paramedic in Oakwood and Valley View, Ohio. Miocic can win a UFC title, but he deserves more applause for resuscitating a female heart attack victim eight months into his job.
“We were just greenhorns then,” Miocic said. “But it’s awesome to help people like that.”
His jobs as a firefighter and paramedic are part-time, allowing him enough flexibility to train. It is a busy work ethic instilled by his mother, Kathy. The son of Croatian immigrants, Miocic was taught there are no short cuts in life.
“She a tough woman, who has a great work ethic,” Miocic said of his mother. “She put a lot of that into me. She would work night shifts and hadn’t slept, but she would still take me to practice. She just wanted me to be the best I could be.”
Now he is the UFC heavyweight champion, a title Cleveland can call its own.
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