It took a while for the news to sink in for Stipe Miocic. After months and months of waiting for a chance to take his belt back from Daniel Cormier, his manager called him and gave him the good news: the rematch was on.
“No joke, for two weeks I’m like, ‘This is weird,’” Miocic told UFC.com. “It just didn’t seem right. Then it finally hit, and I was like, ‘God, finally. Damn.’ I was so excited because everyone was texting me so excited. I was excited too, but it still didn’t hit me.”
Since losing his heavyweight title, Miocic remained steadfast in only fighting again if it was a rematch with Cormier for the belt. That mentality kept him out of action for more than a year, but he looks at the time away from the Octagon positively, in large part because of the birth of his daughter two weeks after that fight.
“We’re very lucky, as every parent would say,” Miocic said. “She’s a really happy baby, loves, laughs all the time. Very curious, always wanting to do stuff, and she’s a go-getter, which I love. I want her to be out experimenting with stuff like climbing up the stairs – which I’m behind her, watching her – but she’s walking now. She’s about to be fully walking, which is terrible for me, but I love every second of it. It’s amazing.”
It’s almost jarring how Miocic’s demeanor changes when he talks about Meelah Claire and when he talks about his bout with Cormier. He said he “enjoyed every second” of his year away from fighting, but that doesn’t mean his competitive fire isn’t ready to boil right up to the surface.
During the seasonal press conference in July, Cormier paid Miocic a few compliments before saying Miocic just isn’t “good enough” to regain the heavyweight crown. The odds reflect a similar sentiment. Heading into their first fight, Miocic was a -170 favorite, according to Bovada. Two weeks away from their second fight, Miocic is a +110 underdog. Marginal, sure, but enough to irk the Cleveland native.
“Awesome, we’ll find out,” Miocic said. “I’m not good enough. He’s looking up at me. I’ll punch him in the face.”
It’s clear there’s no love lost between the two, but other than topics related to Cormier, Miocic seemed relatively relaxed as UFC 241 inches closer. When it comes time to walk to the Octagon, he joked he’ll be more worried about whether or not he left his oven on, but since the waiting is over, all that’s left is the fight.
“I train my ass off,” Miocic said. “I’m going to go out there and do what I got to do. Like I always do, I’m going to go out swinging. I’m not going to sit around and putz. I’m going to go out there, and I’m going to fight. God forbid, something happens (and) it wasn’t my night again - it ain’t going to be that way. I’m going to walk out with my hand raised, belt wrapped around my waist, and new.”
And while his daughter is coming to Anaheim, she won’t be in the crowd because “she’ll be sleeping.
“As much as I wanted her there, my wife was like, ‘No, she’s not going,’” he said. “I was trying so hard, but she’ll be in Anaheim. She’s going to go to Disneyland and hang out. I’m like, ‘Man, I want to go too.’ She gets to do all the fun stuff, and I can’t. This fighting stuff is getting in the way.”
That’s not to say he’s not looking forward to the “fighting stuff.” Miocic’s patience paid off even while Cormier defended the belt against Derrick Lewis and toyed with the idea of fighting Brock Lesnar, and Francis Ngannou ripped off three big wins since November 2018. When he steps into the cage on August 17, it will have been the longest stretch of his career between fights. Even so, nothing changed for Miocic, and if history serves any signs, the main event in Anaheim should deliver on its rising expectations.
“I’m going to do what I do,” he said. “I’ve been working on a lot of stuff, but same approach. I know I’m the better fighter.”
Zac Pacleb is a writer and producer for UFC.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ZacPacleb.