| UFC 161 suffered a huge hit a couple of weeks ago when UFC Interim Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao hurt his foot and his main-event fight against Eddie Wineland was pulled from the card. The UFC announced a couple of days later that Dan Henderson vs. Rashad Evans, the former co-main event on the card, would be promoted to be the main feature at this Saturday’s event (June 15th).
Many fans were not impressed with the move but then the UFC did what it usually does and made the situation better by promoting Stipe Miocic, a talented heavyweight prospect that was scheduled to fight Soa Paleli on the prelims of the event, to take on proven veteran “Big Country” Roy Nelson for the co-main event of UFC 161. Real fans understand that this is a great move by the organization.
Miocic is coming off of the first loss of his career when he has knocked-out in the second round by Stefan Struve in their bout back in September of 2012. The fight, although it was an unfortunate outcome for Stipe, earned both men “Fight of the Night” honors/bonuses. Stipe will be looking to bounce back from that performance with an impressive win on a PPV, co-main event stage against one of the most proven heavyweights currently residing in the UFC stables in Nelson, who is also possibly making his last UFC appearance.
Miocic, now 9-1 in his MMA career heading into this weekend’s UFC 161 event, took some time during fight week to sit down for an interview with MixedMartialArts.com’s guest blogger, Jack Brown, to discuss his upcoming bout, his roots in MMA, and the first loss of his professional MMA career. Here are some of the highlights from that interview via MixedMartialArts.com and Jack Brown:
Jack Brown: What was your first experience with martial arts/combat sports, and how did it become more than just a hobby for you?
Stipe Miocic: I was helping a guy with his wrestling for a fight. After that, I never left the gym.
What do you recall about your first professional MMA fight, a TKO win back in 2010, and how prepared do you feel you were at the time?
It was great. The fight ended quickly. I was ready because I have an amazing team and coaches.
Coming into the UFC, you were 6-0, and a highly-touted prospect. What was the experience of your victorious UFC debut, against Joey Beltran at UFC 136, like for you?
It was amazing and overwhelming. It was something I will never forget.
You were 3-0 in the UFC going into your most recent fight, a headlining spot on Fuel TV, against Stefan Struve, in the UK, back in September. Though it was the “Fight of the Night,” it was your first professional loss and the first time you have been stopped in your career. How did that loss affect you and what have you been working on in the nine months since then?
It sucks. No one likes losing. I trained harder, and worked on everything that I had trouble with, to make me a better fighter come June 15th.
What do you think of this matchup with the skilled, and uniquely built, Roy Nelson, the opportunity to beat a veteran of his caliber, and having to adjust to these significant changes in an opponent with just a few weeks’ notice?
Nelson is a very well-rounded fighter. I like the matchup and wouldn’t have taken it if I didn’t think so. I was training already, and the only thing that has changed is my game-plan.
Certainly your focus is on Nelson and this week’s fight, but if you let your mind wander for a moment, what other heavyweights would you eventually like to get a chance to test yourself against?
Honestly, whoever they ask me to.
In the land of heavyweight MMA fighters, you certainly have had no trouble holding your own. But you are not at the size and build where you approach the upper limits of the division or need to cut weight. What would be the advantages and disadvantages, for a fighter like you, fighting at the 205lb light heavyweight limit?
I don’t know. Losing 35 to 40lbs is a lot of weight. I don’t have much I can lose. I think it would hurt me.
I think that most fans of the sport regard you as a very tough, relatively unassuming type of guy, who has yet to dip his toe into any of the controversies that sometimes define the sport’s athletes. Is that who you are, or are there some issues related to the sport that you feel passionately about right now?
I’m here to fight. That’s all.
What else do you enjoy outside of training and fighting?
I enjoy hanging out, playing video games, etc., nothing out of the ordinary.
Last question, Stipe, and thanks for taking the time to do this. What does it mean to you to be a fighter and how much do you enjoy it?
It means everything. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love every second of it!
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