Alistair Overeem is in for a surprise if he really believes Stipe Miocic is distracted heading into his first title defense in his hometown. Miocic said as much Thursday at the UFC 203 pre-fight press conference.
The Stipe who is fighting Saturday night on Pay-Per-View, the champ said, is the best version to date.
“I’m going to walk in the most confident I’ve ever been. My coaches have me ready for every fight,” Miocic said. “I know I’m better than I was last fight and I keep getting better every day. I’m going to show you how much better I’ve gotten.”
Overeem has been insistent this week that Miocic has been living the championship life since winning the title. Against “The Reem,” Miocic has to be on his game if he’s going to defend his title, and the challenger has seen the champ at pool parties and on talk shows – not in the gym.
But Miocic has trained even harder for his title defense than he did when he knocked out Fabricio Werdum in the first round at UFC 198.
“Everywhere I go -- every time I do an appearance -- I have a coach or training partner with me,” he said. “Nothing’s changed with my training. I’m training as hard as I ever have before. I wish it was Saturday already because I’m ready to go.”
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Miocic is focused on Overeem, and he’ll need to be to take out the legendary Dutchmen who competes in his 57th pro bout at UFC 203.
The pressure seemingly rests on the shoulders of Miocic, who defends in his hometown after arguably breaking the curse of Cleveland sports when he became a champion. The Cavaliers won a team title a few months later, but Miocic was first.
But he isn’t keeping score.
“Cleveland needed it,” he said. “For 52 years we had nothing and we needed something to be proud of. You could say I broke (the curse) or I didn’t break it – I really don’t care. I’m just happy that this city has something to be proud of. Nothing is better than that.”
He is thrilled to bring the UFC to Cleveland – home to some of the most diehard and loyal fans in sports.
“No matter what people have always been wearing Cleveland shirts and supporting Cleveland no matter how bad the teams were or how close we were (to a title),” Miocic said. “It didn’t matter because we’re all about the city. We’re just hard-working people who love this city. But now we’re a city of champions and we plan on keeping it that way for a long time so the city has something to be proud of.”
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC