Stipe Miocic defends his UFC heavyweight title for a record-setting fourth time this Saturday night at UFC 226 against Daniel Cormier.
Cormier, 39, is the current UFC light heavyweight champion and has only tasted defeat during his illustrious nine-year career against one man: Jon Jones. Miocic will have a stiff test against Cormier, who is a former Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion and is making his return to the heavyweight division for the fight. A win would allow Cormier to add the UFC Heavyweight title to his pedigree, as he looks to further cement his legacy as one of the greatest fighters in the history of mixed martial arts.
The 35-year-old Miocic is still a part-time firefighter, and he spoke with Sports Illustrated while at the Valley View Fire Department in Valley View, Ohio, during an event with Modelo.
Miocic discussed the upcoming fight with Cormier, the potential of a future fight with Brock Lesnar, touched on whether he would ever consider a jump to WWE, and gave an answer as to whether he will allow UFC president Dana White to wrap the belt around his waist if he is victorious on Saturday night.
Justin Barrasso: Daniel Cormier presents many challenges. What do you respect most about him?
SM: Cormier is a great fighter. He’s done so well throughout his career and he’s been around so long. It’s an amazing fight for both of us, it’s a super fight. He is very tough, but so am I. He’s going to figure out on July 7 that he has bit off more than he can chew.
JB: Your team had you far better prepared than your opponent, Francis Ngannou, in your most recent fight at UFC 220, which served as an integral ingredient in your record-setting victory. How confident are you in your team for this fight?
SM: The reason I’m here is because of my team. I know this is an individual sport, but to succeed, you need a team. And I have my wife, my family, my friends, and my team. That’s why I am where I’m at, it’s a real team effort.
JB: No one has been able to defeat Cormier other than Jon Jones. Did you reach out to Jones for any advice?
SM: No, my coaches handle all the training. I trust my coaches, they have a great eye and have put together a great game plan. You’ll see it on July 7.
JB: Is there an expiration date on heavyweight champions? You have already set the record for successful title defenses. What is the secret to your success?
SM: I’m like a fine wine that gets better with age.
I don’t know, it’s my body and my coaches. We just pushed through a caveman training. I listen to my body, and my coaches see if I’m going too hard or not doing what I’m supposed to. But that’s why I’m always training and always in shape.
JB: Would you ever consider a run in the WWE?
SM: Never say never. If the paycheck is good, I’ll do it. Look at Ronda Rousey, she’s been great. We’re similar because we both have that fighting spirit.
JB: Even without re-entering the USADA testing pool, Brock Lesnar looms as a future opponent. What are your thoughts on Lesnar?
SM: I don’t worry about Brock Lesnar. I am only focused on July 7. After I take care of business, then you can ask me all the questions you want about him.
JB: You caused some controversy after your UFC 220 fight in Boston when you did not want UFC president Dana White to wrap the belt around your waist following your victory. If you are successful in this fight against Cormier, will you allow Dana White to do the honors?
SM: We’ll figure that out, we’ll see how I feel.
JB: What about the Modelo brand makes you proud to support it?
SM: It’s their mentality, which is all about the fighting spirit. That’s what I am all about. They started at the bottom and worked their way up. They’re the fastest growing beer around, and in my opinion, one of the best beers around. They’re amazing to work with, and very caring and kind. It is a breath of fresh air to find that in the world today.
JB: Firefighting and fighting, when done correctly, share similar values since both are uniquely important fields with humble workers. What connections do you make between the two?
SM: I just love being a firefighter. It’s a passion. I wanted to become a firefighter before I became a mixed martial artist. Fighting is a job that goes beyond the Octagon, it’s a way of life. The same applies with firefighting. They both share that same mentality, staying calm and cool in every situation. Firefighters are just normal people who just go out every day and every night, no matter the situation, no matter the call, just to help.
I’m just so grateful for all of the support. The fans of the mixed martial arts world are so diehard and so loyal. I’m very lucky. My fans understand me. I don’t talk the kind of smack that other people do, which disappoints some, but I’m just myself. My fans are authentic, and that means so much to me.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.