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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 05: Stipe Miocic looks on during the UFC seasonal press conference at T-Mobile Arena on July 5, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Miocic: "That's My Belt"

“I deserve that belt; I know I do. I worked so hard to get there and one bad night doesn’t mean anything. I know I can get that back. That’s my belt.”

Stipe Miocic didn’t have much time to wallow following his UFC 226 to Daniel Cormier, not that he’s ever really been one to dwell on a defeat.

Seventeen days after losing the heavyweight title, Miocic and his wife welcomed their first child, a daughter named Meelah Grace, who immediately stole her father’s heart.

“She is perfect; I love her so much,” Miocic said of his daughter. “She can get whatever she wants and she knows it.

“(Being outnumbered) is terrible,” added the 36-year-old, the enjoyment of fatherhood and the love he feels for his growing family radiating in his voice, despite the lighthearted complaints. “Momma gets what she wants too because she’s awesome and does so much for me, but it’s terrible. (My daughter) has my cool, calm demeanor — she’s real laid back — but that girl has that feistiness too, which she definitely gets from her mom.”

Just as he’s set to continue, the fire alarm in the hotel goes off, followed by a message over the loudspeaker, assuring hotel guests that the staff is looking into the alarm and will keep them apprised of the situation.

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If he were back home, Miocic might be on his way to the hotel, as the heavyweight standout works as a firefighter and paramedic, but this week in Anaheim, there is only one thing on his mind: getting back the title he lost to Cormier 13 months ago.

Despite the road to this weekend’s championship rematch taking numerous twists and turns, Miocic never altered his course, remaining steadfast in his desire to run it back with “DC” from the instant their first bout ended.

In the aftermath of Cormier’s victory, the man who entered as the most accomplished heavyweight champion in UFC history was quickly shuffled into the shadows.

The new champion called out WWE superstar Brock Lesnar, who marched into the Octagon, shoved Cormier and cut a pro wrestling style promo on the big time wrestling fan, setting the stage for a lucrative clash between the two. Miocic went to the back, got cleaned up and sat down with the media, making it clear that a rematch was the only fight he was interested in.

Four months later, Cormier successfully defended his title in a headlining bout at Madison Square Garden against Derrick Lewis, taking down the power hitter from Houston and submitting him in the second round. With the champion having stated his plans to retire around his 40th birthday in March numerous times and the potential of a bout with Lesnar on the horizon, it didn’t seem like Miocic was going to get his wish, but the former champion never wavered.

Instead, he embraced fatherhood and getting to enjoy life without the pressure of being champion, the rigors of fight camp and the constant crush of media attention that comes with being “The Baddest Man on the Planet.”

And when Lesnar opted to re-sign with World Wrestling Entertainment, closing the door on a potential showdown with Cormier, Miocic finally got the call he’d been hoping for since just before 10pm PST on July 7, 2018.

“There wasn’t a deadline,” Miocic said when asked about the “Rematch or Bust” approach he took following his first meeting with Cormier. “I was just pushing for it, hoping for it and I had faith (that it would happen). I’m glad it worked out.”

Now that fight week has finally arrived, the former champion is ecstatic to be able to put the past 13 months in the rearview mirror and get on with the business of reclaiming the heavyweight title, although getting to Saturday involves a few more days of reflecting on what went wrong last July.

“Yes! Oh yeah. 100 percent,” he said quickly in regards to finally being able to stop discussing his loss and extended absence from the cage. “No question.”

UFC 241: Cormier vs Miocic 2 - A Historic Rematch
UFC 241: Cormier vs Miocic 2 - A Historic Rematch

A man of few words when the cameras are rolling, Miocic has maintained all along that his first meeting with Cormier was that 1-in-10 night where the two-time Olympian and former UFC light heavyweight champion was the better man.

Miocic felt great heading into the Octagon and believes he was getting the better of things during the opening round, connecting with a handful of clean shots and keeping a steady pace while pressuring Cormier.

Everything was going according to plan, right up until it wasn’t, which is why he was so focused on running it back without taking another fight in between.

“I lost, that was a surprise,” began Miocic, “but other than that, nothing really surprised me. I felt good, I felt comfortable and I felt like I was winning the fight. I was pushing the pace, moving him around the cage. A few things happened unexpectedly and then BOOM — I don’t have the belt any more.

“I think whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and that’s why I wanted the rematch,” he continued. “Fighting him the first time, I felt ready, I felt good enough to beat him and I feel like I’m the better fighter. If I didn’t feel that way, I probably would have taken another one to just to get to where I needed to be, but I felt like I was the better fighter and I was winning that fight.”

It took Miocic just under five years to earn a shot at the heavyweight title, and after winning the belt in dramatic fashion and re-writing the UFC record for the most consecutive successful title defenses in the division’s history by steamrolling highly touted knockout artist Francis Ngannou, all he’s wanted for the last year is the opportunity to prove that he’s still the best heavyweight in the world.

Saturday night, he finally gets that chance.

“This fight means everything,” said Miocic. “I worked so hard to get there and then one faulty night, one faulty move, whatever you want to call it, (and it’s taken all away).

“I deserve that belt; I know I do. I worked so hard to get there and one bad night doesn’t mean anything. I know I can get that back. That’s my belt.”