For the last 396 days, former UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic has been back in the role of a contender.
After a short campaigning period for an immediate rematch following the loss of his belt to Daniel Cormier at UFC 226, 36-year-old Miocic sat back and held his nerve, firm in the belief that the chance to reclaim his throne would come sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, the division rolled on. Cormier defended his belt against Derrick Lewis and subsequently jostled for a big pay-day with Brock Lesnar, and Francis Ngannou put together a three-fight winning streak and a strong case for a shot at the belt.
But Miocic wasn’t paying attention; family life was just too darn fun.
“Honestly, I was enjoying life,” Miocic told James Lynch in a recent interview.
The loss to Cormier offered the upside of more time to spend with his young daughter, but he was always training and staying ready for when the opportunity would come.
At UFC 241 on ESPN+, Miocic will fight to reclaim the belt he held for so long. Never a man to mince words, there’s no doubt in his mind that he’ll get the job done, irrespective of his doubters.
“I like shutting people up, I’m good at that,” Miocic said.
“I never really feel this pressure. I’m going to go out there and I’m going to fight – win, lose or draw, I go out there and I’m swinging, I’m bringing it every time, I don’t care. You know, I’m not going to lose this next fight, I’m going to win. I’m going to bring the belt back, I’m coming home with the belt wrapped around my waist, and I’ll do what I do. I have the best coaches in the world.”
Asked if he’d been working on anything specifically since their last encounter, Miocic laughed.
“Hopefully keeping my left hand up,” he said.
“I’ve been working on everything, the normal stuff. In this sport, if you take time off and don’t train for a little bit, people pass you quick. It’s crazy how it evolves and how much people get better. You don’t train, you have to start all over and honestly I’ve just been working man, I love it.”
“I don’t care whether it’s the first round or five rounds, it’s going to be me dominating. So, that’s all that matters to me because I already know it’s going to happen.”
Rhodri Morgan is a combat sports writer based out of London, England. When not covering MMA, he can be found roaming the halls of a south London Wholefoods, finding a dog to befriend and rolling in the doomed pursuit of the perfect kimura.