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Kevin Iole chats with Stipe Miocic ahead of the UFC heavyweight champion's title defense against No. 1-ranked contender Francis Ngannou at UFC 260 on Saturday, March 27.
[New ESPN+ members can bundle UFC 260 with one year of ESPN+ for $89.98]
Hey folks. I'm Kevin Iole. On Saturday, UFC 260 at Apex here in Las Vegas. The main event, a big one-- a rematch of UFC 220. Francis Ngannou versus my guest, Stipe Miocic.
And champ, let's start with this. Let's get the question everybody wants to know the answer to. As you go into this heavyweight title fight, what did the Cleveland Indians do without Francisco Lindor this year?
STIPE MIOCIC: Oh, I know, right? It's a little rough. He's a hell of a player. But they'll find a way. We have a great manager, you know. And we always find a way.
KEVIN IOLE: Yeah, no doubt. Well, I was sad to see that move happen. Because he was a great player.
This is the rematch. You're getting used to rematches. You fought the same guys, DC and Francis Ngannou, for now over three straight years. How much different do you expect this match to be? Do you see anything different in Francis, or do you think the two of you are cooked, and you're pretty much-- other than with a little refinement, you are what you are?
STIPE MIOCIC: No, he definitely-- he's definitely a lot better. We evolve in the sport. And it's just part of the game. If you don't involve, you're not going to keep up. And he's definitely evolved. He's worked on everything. Striking's even better. He's working on the ground. I think he's worked-- definitely working on everything.
But so have I. I know I'm getting older, but I've gotten better. I feel way better. And I feel great.
KEVIN IOLE: You know, you fought, what, 4 heavyweight champions, I think it is, multiple times with some of them. You've really had a murderer's row of this. At 38 years old, what motivates you to keep doing this? I'm sure you don't have to do this to make a living, right? Why do you keep wanting to put yourself through all the agony of these camps and-- as long as you've been doing this?
STIPE MIOCIC: I like winning. Winning's fun. I like competition. It keeps me going and it keeps me young. And also taking care of my family, making sure my family's taken care of and all that.
KEVIN IOLE: Do you like that-- some guys talk about that feeling you get when you're nervous, right? And you're a little bit-- you get out there and-- like, that feeling is also something, right? And when you're facing guys like DC and Francis, guys that you know can put you out with one punch, I mean, that has to be part of it too, I would think. Is it?
STIPE MIOCIC: Wait, wait, I'm sorry. You broke up a little bit. I apologize.
KEVIN IOLE: I'm just saying that sort of-- a little bit of that nerve factor. Like, do you like overcoming that nerve factor in the fight when you know that guy on the other side of the ring can knock you out with one punch? Is that sort of a cool feeling to have, too, to be able to face those nerves and be able to then overcome it?
STIPE MIOCIC: Yeah, you know, it's like riding a bike. The more times you do it, the easier it gets. But with fighting, it's good to have nerves. Like good, excited nerves. More like-- almost like adrenaline. You're here. And no, if you don't have those nerves, you're not ready.
And I think I just have that. Because you never know what's going to happen. That's the best thing about fighting. You never know what's going to happen. And I think it's good to have. It's good-- this is nice. Honestly, it's nice to have.
KEVIN IOLE: You know, when you look at the films-- and I'm sure you've done that to a large degree. When you fought DC, the knockout punch he threw at you at UFC 226, his end tight all in here. And you know, you look at Francis. Even his last fight, you referenced, he's gotten better. He's fighting Jairzinho and everything is kind of wide, outside the body.
The fact that he throws those wide-- I know he's very quick and very fast. But the fact is he throw those wide punches. Does that give you that extra split second if you decide to shoot or to be able to move away to defend on those because they're not as straight as, say, DC's were?
STIPE MIOCIC: Yeah, I think [INAUDIBLE] little bit wider, it helps a little bit more. Definitely, you can see him coming. But you know, he got power and he is fast. So maybe. I'm just going to-- hopefully I do that on Saturday, which I plan to.
But yeah, definitely, I think a little bit wider helps a little bit more. I think the best punch is a straight punch. But he's got the power, so he's got to watch out. It's heavyweight, so anything can happen.
KEVIN IOLE: Right. And I want to ask you this. I mean, everybody is enamored with power. That's why Mike Tyson, I think, his exhibition fight last year with Roy Jones sold 1.9 million pay-per-views because people just love these knockout punchers and whatnot.
So you're facing the guy that's reputed to be the Mike Tyson of MMA. Did Francis hit you the hardest of anybody? Or did somebody else hit you even harder with a single punch than what he did?
STIPE MIOCIC: Well, I think everyone hits hard. I mean, he was definitely calling some good shots. I think-- I mean, I don't remember. It was so long ago. But he did me hard. That was good, though. I got touched up. That's part of the game. That's what I signed up for, so. Yeah, you do get hit. You get bruised.
KEVIN IOLE: You have a reputation-- even though you got-- lost that one fight by knockout-- you have a reputation as a guy with a really good chin. I don't know if that's a good reputation to have or not. You know, just--
STIPE MIOCIC: No.
KEVIN IOLE: You don't want to be getting whacked. But my question would be this, is do they feel-- like can you tell the difference in certain guys punching from others? Or is it like, once you get to a certain level, they're all-- everything is hard?
STIPE MIOCIC: Well, I think it doesn't matter. With the big guys, the heavyweights, it's just-- [INAUDIBLE] it's going to hurt either way. Some guys hurt more. And it just depends on if you get caught right in the right spot and stuff like that. So it just depends on-- I don't know.
I really never thought about that in the middle of a fight. Like wow, man. This guy really-- I have thought about that. But not to the extent of kept thinking about it. Because it's a fight, so I can't worry about it too much.
KEVIN IOLE: Right. How much, stylistically, do you think the fight-- if any-- will change from UFC 220 when you were able to take him down a lot, and even though there was some stand up battle, I think most people think of that fight and they think of you beating him up on the floor. Do you think, stylistically, it'll be similar to that? Or do you think because of the evolution of both of you guys that it'll be a different fight?
STIPE MIOCIC: I don't know. We'll see. Every fight's different. Definitely, you said, he's gotten better. He's evolved. And so have I. So you know, like I said, every fight's different. So we'll see what happens. Honestly, floors are down, I'll be ready. If it doesn't, I'll be there, I'll be good on my feet. I'm not worried. I have the best coaches in the world.
KEVIN IOLE: Given that you had three in a row against DC, and it was a great, friendly rivalry between the two of you-- you proved yourself by winning those last two-- are you glad just to see another face-- even though it's a familiar one, but are you glad to see a different face and have a new challenge to train for? Is it kind of refreshing to not have to look at the same face all the time?
STIPE MIOCIC: Yeah. But it's what we do. We fight the best guys, and we had a trilogy. And that's-- it is what it is. It's what fans wanted and all that, too. And it's a totally different match-up. Because DC is shorter and he's compact and he's tight and he's a wrestler. And then Francis is bigger, long arm, hits harder, and doesn't really go to the ground. So it's like totally different. Two different worlds.
KEVIN IOLE: I want to ask you a question two different worlds. John Jones is moving up. Now a lot of people have asked you, what do you think of fighting John Jones? I want to ask you this from his perspective. Who do you think provides a more difficult match-up for him, you or Francis?
STIPE MIOCIC: I don't know. I hadn't really thought about it. Because right now, all I'm worried about is Francis. That's all I care about-- Saturday night. They both bring different things to the table. And I know no matter who it was, my coach has got me prepared. I have the best coach in the world, man. They take care of me. We do a game plan. We watch everything and we go over everything and make sure we're ready for the fight.
KEVIN IOLE: Did you still train at home? Did you do your little-- I know you had the [INAUDIBLE] filled up. Did you still do that for this fight?
STIPE MIOCIC: Yeah. Half there and half the gym
KEVIN IOLE: So how much better is that for you? You referenced liking to be at home, not being out traveling. As you've gotten used to doing this because of COVID, is it something that even when COVID's gone, you'll continue to do?
STIPE MIOCIC: Yeah, there's no question. It's like a blessing in disguise. I'm home all the time, but I don't have to rush home to put my daughter to bed, or I miss it. She's there with me, and I get done working out. She comes down and plays with me after. And she has fun. And it's great to have. It's just a good feeling that I'm at home.
KEVIN IOLE: Do you think that might be something that keeps you in the game a little bit longer because now you don't miss that time? And she's getting to the age now where walking and talking and doing all those kind of things, right-- the fact that now you're at home, and you referenced you can see her more than as if you were spending an hour commuting each way.
STIPE MIOCIC: Yeah, no, definitely, definitely. Yeah, 100%, I think so. I think it's just-- it's like I feel rejuvenated. I just feel like I have a purpose now more, even more of a purpose. Because I I don't have to worry about leaving at a certain time, or I have to get there early or leave later. And just stuff like that. So it's great to know that I can just go in the basement and have a gym down there and we can train down there.
KEVIN IOLE: Let's wrap this up, Stipe. I know that a win is a win and you just want to have that belt wrapped around your waist again on--
STIPE MIOCIC: I will.
KEVIN IOLE: --Saturday night. And you say you will. But will it matter-- like, if you're able to knock off the bully, knock out Francis and put him away, will that mean any more to you than normal? Just that because he's the guy that's been blowing 20 seconds over Rozenstruik and all these unbelievable knockouts. If you're able to knock him out, will that have any extra special meaning to you or no?
STIPE MIOCIC: Oh, of course. Of course. A knock out's a knock out, man. I love that. That means the fights are done early. Usually. Usually.
KEVIN IOLE: So no doubt. Well, brother, I appreciate it, and I appreciate one other thing. You're not bringing up the NFL playoffs and mentioning the Steelers and Browns. So I owe you for that one. And always good to see you, my man. Good luck on Saturday, bro.
STIPE MIOCIC: You too, sir. Have a great day, all right? Thank you.
KEVIN IOLE: Stipe Miocic. We'll see you soon.