Esther Lin via MMA Fighting
MMAmania's Brian Hemminger speaks with UFC on Fuel TV 5 headliner Stipe Miocic about his first main event, facing his fears and preparing with Tim Sylvia
The Croatian-American has a tremendous amount of athletic gifts. Combined with a sturdy work ethic, he has quickly vaulted himself into the mix of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) contenders.
Just don't tell him that.
Despite starting his UFC career with three wins, including two straight stoppages, Miocic remains extremely humble as he enters this Saturday's (Sept. 29, 2012) fight against Stefan Struve at UFC on FUEL TV 5 in Nottingham, England, his first main event.
He's still even working at the local fire department when the stout slugger is not training.
With some serious power in both hands, as well as a solid wrestling base to fall back on, Miocic has all the tools to do big things in the UFC heavyweight division.
The Strong Style fighter spoke with MMAmania.com about his feelings entering his first main event, facing his fears and preparing for Stefan Struve with former UFC champion Tim Sylvia in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This is a huge fight for you, obviously. Your career has progressed from the preliminary card to a Fuel TV main card to a pay-per-view main card to now, the main event. Did you ever expect to be the main event so quickly considering how recently you made your UFC debut?
Stipe Miocic: Oh not at all. I'm just really excited for the opportunity, really excited to show what I've got. Being the main event, I'm pretty jacked up.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): People that get put in the main event, the UFC doesn't just put anyone there. Every one of these Fuel shows has had a main event with title implications. What do you think that says about you and how the UFC thinks about you to be putting you in such a visible position?
Stipe Miocic: It just shows they have confidence in me. It's awesome. I'm pumped and I appreciate them giving me the opportunity.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I heard that when you got the news you were just bouncing off the walls and calling everybody you knew. Can you take me back to that moment when your manager let you know?
Stipe Miocic: Yeah I was at work and I'd just got done with my last fight so I was a little beat up and resting and he calls and tells me, "Hey man, you're fighting again." I was like, "Are you kidding me? Holy crap!" He goes, "yeah, you're fighting Struve" and then he goes, "You're main-eventing," and I just went "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!"
I was going crazy and all the guys at the station were looking at me like I was weird. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've read that you don't like long plane fights. What's the deal with that and how are you going to handle flying to the UK?
Stipe Miocic: It's terrible. Oh man, I'll be all right. I'll have my coaches with me and I'll probably just download some movies or something. I've been to Australia twice when I was a kid. I was perfectly fine with it. I don't know. Now I've got this unease when flying.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How long has it been since you traveled a long distance internationally?
Stipe Miocic: 15 years. I was 14 when I went to Australia. It's a long time.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This is actually going to be the first time that your mom is flying out to one of your bouts and your dad is going to hop over from Croatia to watch your fight. How does that feel?
Stipe Miocic: Oh it's awesome. My mom is flying out to England but she's not gonna watch me fight. She doesn't want to see her baby boy get hit in the face. She's coming. She's excited. She needed it, always working and she needed a vacation. My dad, I haven't seen him in two years and he's gonna come and see me so it'll be great.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Stefan Struve is one of the tallest and most unique fighters to prepare for. I heard you trained with Tim Sylvia in preparation for this fight. How did that come about? Is that something you were looking for or did you sort of fall into that opportunity?
Stipe Miocic: We were looking for Tim and he had the fight against Arlovski so instead of bringing him out to Cleveland, I just went out to him in Indiana because his fight was sooner. It was nice. He taught me some good stuff. He's an awesome guy. He's been there and done that and it was fun. It was a great learning experience for me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Was it awkward at first trying to figure out how to fight somebody who can use a reach advantage like that?
Stipe Miocic: I train with a 6'7" boxer pretty often and he's got a pretty long reach. I work with him a lot so that helped me out a little bit. I got the feel for it and after about two minutes, I was able to figure out how to get inside or if I wanted to, use my length, too.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What people mostly know Struve for is his fantastic submission abilities. You're a guy with a pretty solid wrestling background and that's something you can fall back on if you need to, like finishing Shane del Rosario in your last fight via ground and pound. Is that something you're still confident in being able to do against someone who's so dangerous on the ground in Stefan Struve?
Stipe Miocic: Yeah, I think if I'm smart and do what I do, I'll be okay. If I don't do the gameplan and not listen to my coaches, I'll be in trouble. I was working with Rodrigo Comprido and he's an awesome guy. He showed me some stuff.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Stefan Struve has had issues if he allows his opponents to get inside on him. Guys like Junior dos Santos and Roy Nelson have hurt him bad when they got inside. Is that something that's sticking in your mind heading into this bout?
Stipe Miocic: Yeah but I'm not trying to follow their lead. I'm trying to do what I do. He's a tough guy and even if you catch him, he's always coming back. He's always finding a way. I'm hoping I can nullify that and not let him find a way back. Everything has to go right if I want to get the "W."
Stipe would like to thank his gym Strongstyle, his coaches Marcus, Joe, Pablo, Steve and Dave Morgan, his teammates, the Croatians, and his sponsors Fear the Figher, Hayabusa, Masters of Disaster, MusclePharm, Topps Trading Cards, American Ethanol. You can follow him on Twitter @SMiocic.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Miocic get inside and bring "The Skyscraper" crashing down? Or will the pressures of his first UFC main event and fighting overseas catch up to him?