Stipe Miocic is one of the brightest talents in the UFC heavyweight division.
The undefeated Croatian-American was a stand-out multi-sport athlete in college, where he participated on the Division I level in both baseball and wrestling. He was also a Golden Gloves boxing champion as well so when he tried out mixed martial arts on a whim, it wasn't too difficult to see why he'd be a natural.
After stopping his first six opponents via strikes to begin his professional MMA career, the Strong Style fight team member got the call to the big show and he made his UFC debut this past October, earning a hard-fought decision victory against Joey Beltran.
Miocic will be returning to the Octagon on Wednesday night (February 15, 2012), this time on the main card of UFC on Fuel TV against fellow undefeated heavyweight Philip De Fries. He spoke with MMAmania.com about his team keeping him grounded, why his baseball career helps his punching power and avoiding De Fries' submission game in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Stipe Miocic: Oh boy, here we go.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've heard that you're a bit gullible, do the guys over at Strong Style ever take advantage of that, playing pranks on you?
Stipe Miocic: Yeah, all the time. I love them for it so it doesn't matter. Sometimes, even if I know it's a prank, I do it anyways.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Brian Rogers wanted to know why you're afraid of cartwheel kicks.
Stipe Miocic: Oh god, he buzzed me with a cartwheel kick in sparring, that's it. Ask him what's his deal with the Superman jab.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Rogers also wanted to know who your dad's favorite fighter is.
Stipe Miocic: (Sigh) Brian Rogers. Believe me, it's Brian Rogers. Ughh, yeah. Whenever I talk to my dad, he's like, "So how's Brian doing?" and I'm like, "Brian's fine, and I'm doing great too, dad." Pisses me off. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Okay, time for some more serious questions now. You've mentioned how your teammates joke around with you, pick on you a bit, but with some of this hype that's beginning to build about you, does that keep you grounded a bit?
Stipe Miocic: Yeah, but I don't really think there's any hype right now. I try to take it day by day and just try to train hard. We have fun, you know? It's a really good group of people.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I read your story about getting into MMA, working with Dan Bobish, showing up at the gym and you never left. What was it about training there that made you want to stay and never want to leave?
Stipe Miocic: Just the different aspects and the competition. Learning new things every day, more and more, it just intrigued me a lot.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You made your UFC debut against Joey Beltran and you looked terrific. After the fight, you actually went out to Alliance in California and trained with them. How did that come about?
Stipe Miocic: They actually contacted me and while I was training there, they were awesome guys. It was awesome training there and I learned a lot of good stuff. They're good individuals, really good people.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've talked to a lot of fighters and they always like mixing it up every once in a while so they can bring new things back to their home gyms.
Stipe Miocic: Yeah, you've got to try new things, get out of your comfort zone. All those guys were getting ready for fights, it was a fresh environment and I didn't know anyone so I didn't know their tendencies in sparring. It was good for me, it was a lot of that type of stuff.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Moving forward with your upcoming fight with Philip De Fries, he's a really talented English grappler. There aren't a lot of really pure heavyweight grapplers out there, guys that are just trying to be submission fighters in the heavyweight division. Was it difficult finding someone to replicate his style in training?
Stipe Miocic: Yeah, there really wasn't anyone like him in our area, but hopefully I can just do my gameplan and then I can do what I want. He's a tough dude and hopefully I can do what I can do get the "W."
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your fight with Beltran, you were hanging with him in the stand-up, but you also had a safety net, which was your Division I wrestling to fall back on in case he ever started getting anything going. You took him down several times during the fight. Is that something you think you can do the same against De Fries or is your safety net just keeping it standing this time around?
Stipe Miocic: Well, I think I'll be okay. As long as I'm not an idiot and I do what I'm supposed to do, take control of the fight, it shouldn't ever go to the ground. If the fight somehow does go to the ground, I'd still be confident there, definitely.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What do you think of Philip De Fries' stand-up ability? We haven't seen a whole lot of it so far.
Stipe Miocic: I don't really know. He's tough. He probably does hit hard because he's so big, but we don't really know how good it is because he's always looking to take the fight to the ground. We're gonna find out on Wednesday night, though.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Okay, this is Jay Glazer was saying at the UFC on FOX event that Dustin Jacoby could throw a harder punch because because he was a quarterback in college. Now I don't know if that was true or not or it something like that translates to MMA at all, but I figured you'd be the perfect person to ask. Being a Division I collegiate baseball player, does that at all help you throw a harder punch with your throwing hand?
Stipe Miocic: Oh definitely. I can throw my hips into it and everything. It's from the repetition of that throwing motion I think and if you factor in using my hips and throwing my whole body into it, it helps big time with power.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That's very interesting. Now you're a firefighter/paramedic on the side of being a UFC fighter. As you continue to win and progress, is that something you'll be able to keep doing?
Stipe Miocic: Oh yeah, definitely yeah. No matter how big I get, I'll always work with them. That's really important to me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): My last question, when you're picturing victory in this fight, what do you see?
Stipe Miocic: I see myself getting the "W" no matter what happens.
Stipe would like to thank Headrush, Hayabusa, Advanced Sports Labs, Topps, Defense Soap, John P. Lennon, Strhess Clothing, his gym Strong Style, his coaches, teammates, friends and family. You can follow him on Twitter @smiocic.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Miocic remain undefeated after Wednesday night? What do you think of his potential in the heavyweight division?
Let's hear it.