Stipe Miocic (photo courtesy of NAAFS & Hexlinc.com)
For new UFC heavyweight prospect Stipe Miocic, his path to the Octagon wasn’t all that different than many of the top fighters in the sport today.
Miocic was a natural athlete growing up and initially went to college at Cleveland State University to play baseball and wrestle.
It was there he had his first meeting with the mixed martial arts world. Well, sort of.
Miocic was a college roommate of former UFC middleweight Gerald “Hurricane” Harris. Now, a few years later, both are successful at competing in MMA, but it was another former UFC and Pride fighter that led to his entry into the sport.
“I was training and being a personal trainer on the side and the guy that owned the gym was friends with Dan Bobish, and he was like ‘hey, you want to help him out?’ and I was like for sure. So I started helping Dan Bobish out and I never left the gym,” Miocic said in an interview with MMAWeekly.com.
Miocic worked with Bobish and now trains full time at Strong Style MMA in Cleveland along with new Bellator middleweight Brian “The Predator” Rogers. While his roots say wrestling, Miocic has become a proficient striker, and that has resulted in six wins in his career, all of them by KO or TKO.
“I just kept working on it, and you always say you make your weakness your strongest point, so I just kept working on my stand-up,” Miocic said. “I like standing and banging, it’s fun. If it’s got to go to the ground, it’s got to go to the ground, but I’d rather stand up.”
The hard work paid off when a call came about a week ago with an offer from the UFC to sign a multi-fight deal with the promotion. Miocic admits he was excited with the opportunity to continue to prove himself, this time on the biggest stage in the sport.
As he signed his contract, Miocic had to say goodbye to the NAAFS, a promotion in Cleveland that he’s called home for all but one of his six professional fights.
When the deal was completed, not only did the NAAFS support Miocic in his decision to move on to the UFC, CEO Greg Kalikas celebrated the signing.
“You don’t see that, that often. Greg just likes seeing people get better and that’s what I like about him,” said Miocic. “You’ve got to go on with your future, you’ve got bigger fish to fry, and that’s what he did. That’s what’s so great about him, he’s always looking out for the other guy and not himself.”
Now instead of being the big fish in a smaller pond, Miocic becomes the small fish in a wading pool of piranhas… the UFC’s heavyweight division. Just a few years back the pool of talent was as shallow as a mud puddle, but lately the weight class has beefed up both literally and figuratively.
Miocic isn’t going to call for anybody to be his first fight, he just wants to get in there and prove himself.
“I just signed and we’ll see what happens,” Miocic commented about his first fight in the UFC.
No date or event has been given for Miocic’s debut, but he’s continuing to work hard, train hard, and prepare for the time when he gets to prove he’s ready to fight the best in the UFC’s heavyweight division.
Damon Martin is the lead staff writer and radio host for MMAWeekly.com.
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