UFC Fighter Stipe Miocic looks to break Cleveland Sports Curse
UFC Heavyweight fighter Stipe Miocic
UFC Fighter Stipe Miocic and entertainment reporter Chris Van Vliet
He's Cleveland born, Cleveland raised and Cleveland tough.
Stipe Miocic is an undefeated UFC fighter, but true to his Cleveland upbringing, he still works his day job as a firefighter and emergency medical technical at Oakwood village and Valley View. But above all else, Stipe Miocic is Cleveland's next best hope for a champion.
"I don't think I owe Cleveland anything," says a confident Miocic, "But I think in this city we need a champion and we are owed a championship. I'll do whatever I can to get it."
Stipe fights in the UFC's Heavyweight division with a perfect record of 9 and 0. Seven of those wins are by knockout. He stands an intimidating 6 feet 4 inches tall, weighing 245 pounds. "I've had a lot of good fighters and I still do, but Stipe is probably the best fighter we've ever had here," says his head trainer Marcus Marinelli, Stipe's head coach and the owner of Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts in Independence.
The UFC believes in him too. "The guy is an absolute athlete, he probably could have played any sport but he became a mixed martial artist," says UFC President Dana White.
Miocic's path to the UFC began 30 years ago, Born to Croatian parents in Euclid. His mother, Kathy Miocic, remembers getting Stipe's athletic career started. "He loved sports so from the time he was able to participate I had him signed up in football, baseball, soccer and wrestling."
Stipe was a standout high school athlete at Eastlake North, before accepting a scholarship to Cleveland State for both wrestling and baseball where he sparked interest from several Major League teams. But he was drawn to one-on-one competition and on February 20, 2010 he started his fighting career with a bang, and a win, in just 17 seconds over Corey Mullis.
While he continues to have success inside the Octagon, his mom still has problems watching her son in action, "I am very proud of him and he knows that and he knows that I'm probably one of his biggest supporters but he knows that I'm probably going to be the only supporter who doesn't watch the live fights."
Stipe laughs about it, "The way my mom feels about fighting is she loves it because I love it. She supports me but she'll never watch me fight."
Despite grueling training sessions twice a day, six days a week and being signed to a six fight contract with the fastest growing sport ever, the multi million dollar world of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Stipe still works his day job. Where goes from fighter, to firefighter. And he's just one of the guys.
"The Stipe everybody else knows, everyone knows in the ring is not the Stipe we get here. As soon as he walks through the door here, he can't be that guy," says fellow Valley View firefighter Jamie Meklemburg joking about Stipe's outgoing personality. "He is a giant child. he's a child."
"The reason I still have my day job is because I love it. I love what I do. I love helping people," Stipe explains, saying even if he becomes the UFC Heavyweight Champion, he will never quit it.
"I think it's an honorable quality of his that he's still a firefighter," adds his trainer Marcus Marinelli who half-jokingly says he wishes he could have Stipe training in the gym all the time.
"There's no other Stipe out there. There really isn't. he's a good dude. he fits in very well with our group of guys," remarks Valley View firefighter Ken Papesh.
On September 29th, Miocic steps back into the Octagon on his quest to bring Cleveland a title. This fight is part of 'UFC on Fuel 5' and takes place in Nottingham, England against his toughest opponent yet, a 6'11.5" Dutch fighter, Stefan Struve, who is appropriately nicknamed "The Skyscraper"due to the fact that he is the tallest fighter in the UFC.
"If Stipe wins this fight, it puts him closer to a title shot. And that's every guy's goal in the UFC, everyone wants to be the world champion," Dana White says. "This guy has the tools to do it. And this is a very important fight for him."
In a city with a disappointing sports history that includes "The Drive," The Shot," and "The Fumble," Stipe gives real hope to bring another "the" moment to Cleveland. A moment the city hasn't had in nearly 50 years: "The Champion".
"Cleveland needs a winner. Stipe's a winner. It's a good combination," says Marinelli. "I believe Stipe Miocic will definitely be the UFC heavyweight champion and he will bring that championship back to Cleveland, Ohio"
Miocic agrees. In fact, he's made it his goal.
"I want to be remembered as a guy from Cleveland who brought home the championship and break that curse. The first thing I would do is bring that belt home, walk through Cleveland and say we did it."