CLEVELAND -- With just one punch, Cleveland-based mixed martial artist Stipe Miocic not only won the UFC heavyweight championship, but also, started a run of success for pro sports athletes and teams along the North Coast.
Following Miocic’s knockout win over Fabricio Werdum in the main event of UFC 198 back in May, the former Lake Erie Monsters swept their way to the Calder Cup and the Cleveland Cavaliers fought back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors and win the NBA Championship for the first time in franchise history.
“It’s amazing, man,” Miocic said. “Cleveland needed it. For 52 years, we had nothing. It’s something to be proud of. You can say I broke it or I didn’t break it. I really don’t care. I’m just happy the city has something to be proud of, and now, we have the Lake Erie Monsters and the Cavs with the Calder Cup and the NBA title. Nothing gets better than that.”
Miocic will make his first defense of the UFC heavyweight championship in front of the very fans that greeted him at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and Strong Style Gym in Independence after his return from Brazil with the title and cheered as he led the Cavaliers’ Championship Parade and Rally in late June.
During the UFC 203 pre-fight press conference at The Q Thursday, Miocic was asked about the citizens of Cleveland being prouder of their city after the championship wins. But to him, the town has always put its pride on display.
“No matter what, people have always been wearing Cleveland shirts and supporting Cleveland,” Miocic said. “No matter how bad the teams were or how close we were, it didn’t matter. That’s what I love about the city. We’re just hard-working people that just love the city and don’t care how good the teams do. Now that we’ve got a few champions, we’re a city of champions. I plan on keeping it that way for a long time and this city’s going to have something to be proud of.”
Miocic has won his last three fights via knockout or TKO, including the previous two in the first round against former UFC heavyweight titleholders in Andrei Arlovski and Werdum.
And if it is up to Miocic, he is going to add another name to the list when he defends the heavyweight championship of the world against Alistair Overeem in the main event of UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland Saturday night.
“I’m proud because I’m from Cleveland,” Miocic said. “I love this place. I’m never going to leave, and that’s the way it’s going to be, but it’s amazing to come here. I’m so happy the UFC is finally here. People have been starving for it here in Cleveland.
“I’m not sleeping in my own bed till Sunday. I’m still at the hotel. I’m not changing that routine, but it’s great. It’s just awesome to see all the fans here supporting it, supporting me and Jessica (Eye). It’s amazing, and it’s going to be a great night Saturday. I can tell you that.”
This is Part Five of our series leading up to Miocic's UFC heavyweight championship bout against Overeem in Cleveland Saturday night.