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Stipe Miocic was in another hemisphere, shouting into the camera to his fans in Cleveland from the Octagon in Brazil, where moments before he became the UFC Heavyweight Champion of the World. He had just knocked out Fabricio Werdum on his home turf in the first round of the UFC 198 title fight.
On September 10, Stipe will defend his title in none other than The Land itself at Quicken Loans Arena, the first time the UFC has come to Cleveland.
Miocic became the world champion on May 14, 2016--four weeks before the Lake Erie Monsters won the Calder Cup, and five weeks before the Cleveland Cavaliers clinched the NBA Championship, leading some to say that Miocic was the actual "curse breaker," ending the 52-year championship drought for the city.
Whether you agree with that moniker or not doesn't really matter. He won. He is the champ. And he plans on keeping it that way.
"We’re keeping this belt in Cleveland for a very long time," he said.
(Cue Clevelanders collectively beaming with pride and shouting, HELL YEAH!)
We talked to Stipe about his life, his town, and his newly found status as a sports icon. Here's what he had to say.
Q: What was your life like growing up in Northeast Ohio?
A. I grew up on the East Side of Cleveland--we lived in Euclid and then moved to Willowick. I loved it. I went to Browns games, Indians games, Cavs games, all that good stuff--especially when the Cavs were at the Richfield Coliseum in the old days. Nothing crazy. I went to Cleveland State. But I just love Cleveland and I’m never going to leave.
Q. What's your relationship like with the city these days?
A. My relationship with Cleveland is awesome. I love Cleveland. It’s getting better and better. It was down for a bit, I think not many people wanted to come here, but now, it’s alive. We win championships here, we have a great casino, we have great nightlife, there’s a lot of stuff going on--and great food. One thing about Cleveland that people don’t really know about is that the food here is amazing. And it’s just getting better year by year.
Q. What are your favorite things to do in Cleveland in your spare time?
A. I like Tremont. I also like Red Steakhouse and I like Barrio. I like the casino. I like Ohio City. There’s always something to do around Cleveland. Whiskey Island is great during the summer. I like the club FWD, that’s a nice place to go, and Punch Bowl and Big Bang down in the Flats. But I like going down there, it’s really nice.
Q. You're a fireman and paramedic in Valley View, Ohio. What got you into that line of work?
A. I just like being a fireman, I like helping people. I’ve always done that my whole life--and I like the hours I work. I can work part time and pick my schedule. It’s a good gig. I have a lot of good guys I work with and it doesn’t get better than that.
Q. How did you get into UFC fighting?
A. About 10 years ago I started helping a guy out. I started wrestling with him and I just never left the gym. I had a couple of amateur fights, and then a couple of pro fights at a regional level, and then UFC.
Q. How does it feel to essentially break the curse and be a part of this historic year in Cleveland sports?
A. It’s amazing. It’s what Cleveland needed. We were striving for it and it was the Cavs, me, the Lake Erie Monsters--we’re bringing titles back now and the Indians are doing amazing and it’s been a good year and we need to keep it going that way.
Q. What's it like to be a sports star in such a sports-centric town?
A. The whole thing about Cleveland is that the fans here are just loyal. Whether the Browns are 0-16 or the Cavs are in the Finals, or the Indians don’t do as good--it doesn’t matter. They’re like, “all right, no worries” and they’re still there supporting and never stopping--it’s just the love. The amount of love is just amazing.
Q. You participated in the Cavs Championship Parade, which drew an estimated 1.3 million screaming happy people to Downtown Cleveland. What was that experience like for you?
A. It was HOT, ha ha! But it was great--it was amazing--it was great to be a part of. I was so grateful to be a part of it, and it doesn’t get any better than that. And [to my fans,] thank you for your support!
Q. Tell us about your upcoming fight in Cleveland on September 10 at Quicken Loans Arena.
A. Oh, I’m excited, you know. Grateful that I won’t be traveling anywhere, which is always nice. But I’m excited--Cleveland’s been waiting for UFC to come here and we finally got it. It’s a great card, a lot of good fighters on it.
For more information and to purchase tickets to see Stipe in action on September 10, click here.
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