Stipe Miocic is the UFC heavyweight champion, but he’s also from Northeast Ohio, which means he’s following LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers with keen interest.
Cleveland ripped through its first 10 postseason games without a loss. The last two games, however, have been a different story. Toronto defended its home-court in Games 3 and 4 and has a chance to take a 3-2 series lead Wednesday in Cleveland.
Miocic, believe it or not, isn’t too upset right now.
“No, actually, I’m glad they lost a few games,” Miocic said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Well, not glad. Of course I wanted them to win, there’s no question. But they were 10-0, they were smashing everyone, they were looking great. Not that they got cocky, but they felt like, ‘All right, we got this.’ But it’s good. Sometimes you got to be put down and get back up to be stronger.”
Miocic, who thinks the Cavs will ultimately win the series, doesn’t pal around or run into many Cleveland athletes, but there’s a reason for that.
“I really don’t go downtown,” he said. “I like to stay close to home. I’m right outside of Cleveland. I saw Manziel once at a baseball game. I’ve seen a couple guys. I’m actually real good friends with (Indians catcher) Yan Gomes. We have dinner. He’s an awesome guy, amazing man. But no, I don’t see too many guys out. I’m not really a downtown guy.”
That singular focus is probably what’s catapulted Miocic (15-2) to the top of the UFC heavyweight division. Earlier this month at UFC 198, he knocked out Fabricio Werdum with a first-round punch to win the title.
Since then, Miocic said, life has been “a little overwhelming.”
“I got off the plane and I couldn’t believe how many people were there (to greet me),” he said. “I’m a big dude and I’m tough, but I cried. I cried like a little baby. I cried all day. I got home and I was by myself. Then I was with my fiance, we were watching TV and something came up on the news again and I just started crying again. And she coddled me. Finally I was cried out. But it’s been amazing. It’s been great.”
Miocic and his fiance recently went to their favorite hibachi restaurant and got a pleasant surprise when the bill came: There was no charge. It was on the house.
“Honestly, it’s been just amazing,” Miocic said. “Just the support, it’s awesome. I love being from Cleveland.”
Asked about all the hullabaloo surrounding Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, Miocic doesn’t know if the two megastars will fight, but he does think the speculation is good for the sport.
“Honestly, I think it is,” he said. “MMA – not just UFC, but MMA in general – it’s the fastest-growing sport in the world. I think people love it. Look at TMZ. People love TMZ. They want to know what’s going on, all the drama. It’s like a soap opera. People love it.”
Miocic also thinks that while McGregor would be a decided underdog, the 27-year-old Dublin native would still have a chance against the unblemished Mayweather.
“Mayweather is amazing,” Miocic said. “He’s pound-for-pound the best of all time. But you never know. Maybe he gets cocky, puts his hands down – you never know. You never know.”