Croatian-American Stipe Miocic is an elite mixed-martial arts fighter, currently ranked #3 in the UFC heavyweight division. A former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and Golden Gloves boxing champion, he holds a professional MMA record of 13-2 with nine knockouts and one submission. He is also a firefighter and paramedic in Oakwood and Valley View, Ohio.
Stipe’s recent fights include a spectacular 5 round war with former champion Junior dos Santos – which ended in a controversial decision but earned them both a $50,000 Fight of the Night bonus – and a dominant performance over heavy-hitting Mark Hunt, in which Miocic set an all-time record for most strikes landed in a single fight. Stipe outclassed his opponent with a remarkable 361 strikes to Hunt’s 48, and finished the granite-chinned powerhouse by TKO.
Miocic is now scheduled to take on surging heavyweight “Big Ben” Rothwell on October 24th, at UFC Fight Night in Dublin, Ireland. A win over Ben will solidify Stipe’s spot as the #1 contender for the UFC Heavyweight Championship, an opportunity that many fans feel he has earned already.
I was fortunate enough to get a few words from Stipe on a variety of topics, from his Croatian roots and passion for sports, to potential movie roles and the return of the great Fedor Emelianenko.
LWOS: First off, Stipe, you are my favorite heavyweight and I honestly appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to speak with me! Let’s start with your background. You were born in Ohio, but your family is from Croatia. What was it like growing up? Any siblings or other close family?
SM: I was able to visit Croatia a few times recently and I can tell you it’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Growing up there would have been great too, but my parents moving to Ohio allowed me to get into wrestling at a young age, which led to me eventually finding MMA. I have family here and overseas in Croatia. My mother and two brothers live here in the US but the majority of my family is overseas.
LWOS: You played a lot of sports in high school and college. What did you enjoy the most, and what were some of your accomplishments in these sports?
SM: I was into every sport but I’d say baseball was probably my favorite. In high school I also played football, but focused on just baseball and wrestling when I got to college.
LWOS: Major League Baseball took an interest in you during your days at Cleveland State University. Which teams reached out to you, and do you ever look back and say, “I wish I did that instead”?
SM: I had interest from a few teams but it never got too serious. I have no regrets with my decision to focus on MMA. It’s working out ok for me so far (laughs).
LWOS: It definitely is! You were also a Golden Gloves boxing champion. Did you try it out because you just love to compete? Have you ever considered becoming a professional boxer?
SM: I enjoyed boxing and had a great experience competing in the Golden Gloves. I took a couple years away from MMA to develop my boxing skills but never really considered making the transition to boxing from MMA.
LWOS: A lot of fighters say their family didn’t like the idea of them participating in MMA. Was that the case for you, or was your family supportive of your goal?
SM: Absolutely, my family was and still is very supportive of my choice to participate in MMA.
LWOS: That’s great! Strong Style Fight Team is your home when it comes to training for fights. How long have you been a part of the Independence, Ohio based gym, and how can aspiring MMA fighters become a member of the team?
SM: I’ve been at Strong Style since day one and couldn’t have found a better fit for myself. Marcus Marinelli has built an incredible program at Strong Style and our team is like family. I don’t think I’d be where I’m at in my career without Marcus and my family at the gym. I’d encourage aspiring fighters in our area to log on to StrongStyle.com and set up a visit to the gym. They won’t be disappointed.
LWOS: The EA Sports UFC video game came out earlier this year. Many great fighters, including yourself, were not in the original release and had to be put in later. Did you have to contact EA Sports to have your game character created, or was it by popular demand from your loyal fans?
SM: I love the EA UFC game and I’m honored to be a part of it! I did not have to contact EA or the UFC in order to be added to the game. I’m not sure who makes that decision but I’m glad they thought enough of me as a fighter to add me to the game.
LWOS: Me too, I always win when I play as Stipe (laughs). Being from Ohio, you’re obviously a huge Cleveland Browns fan. Who is your favorite Browns player of all time? Do you ever hang out with the players, and what do you expect from them this football season?
SM: No doubt I’m a huge Browns fan. I don’t really have just one favorite all time Brown, but I was big on Kosar and of course the great Jim Brown growing up, like most fans. I’m fortunate to have had a chance to visit the Browns practice facility and hang out with some of the team a few times, which is always a blast. I think the Browns will surprise a lot of people this season. They have a great defense and the offense will be better than advertised.
LWOS: Awesome. I’m a Raiders fan myself, as is Cub Swanson. He has a bet going on with your teammate Jessica Eye, saying Oakland will have a better record than Cleveland this year. Wanna get in on this?
SM: (laughs) I’m not much of a gambling type but I’m with Jessica on this one… Browns will definitely finish with a better record than the Raiders!
LWOS: Ouch (laughs). We’ll see! Who were your biggest inspirations growing up, sports related or otherwise?
SM: My parents were both great inspirations to me growing up, and I’d say the most influential to me.
LWOS: Fedor Emelianenko said he’s returning to MMA soon, and is currently in talks with the UFC. I’m sure you would love to fight him sometime, but who do you think would be a great opponent for his debut if he does sign with your organization?
SM: Fedor is a legend and I’m a big fan. I’d be honored to fight him one day if that’s what the fans and the UFC want to see. But right now my attention is on Big Ben and then getting my shot at the title.
LWOS: Looking forward to that! Have you ever been contacted to star in a movie? What kind of film would you enjoy being a part of, and who would you like to work with? Maybe an action role with Schwarzenegger or something?
SM: I know my management team has been in talks with a few producers and directors, but nothing has worked out schedule-wise yet. I’m told I’d make a great villain in a movie (laughs). It would be great to do a movie with Arnold.
LWOS: Speaking of movies, apparently you’re a fan of the Sharknado series. Do you just enjoy a good laugh, or is there something else about the films that makes you tune in?
SM: I love the Sharknado series! Maybe Sharknado 4 can be my debut on the big screen (laughs).
LWOS: Who are your favorite fighters to watch, other than your teammates from Strong Style?
SM: [Mirko] CroCop is without a doubt my favorite fighter outside of my teammates at Strong Style.
LWOS: He is a legend for sure. Years from now, when it’s time to hang up the gloves, what do you see yourself doing? Will you always be a firefighter, and is there something else you plan to do?
SM: I can definitely see myself being a firefighter for years to come. I love helping people and I love the brotherhood inside the firehouse. My goal is and always will be to retire from the sport a UFC HW champion.
LWOS: Right on. I have no doubt that you will be the UFC Heavyweight Champion soon! Well, that’s all the questions I have for you Stipe. Thanks again for the privilege, it was truly an honor to talk with you! Best of luck to you and your team. Take care!
Follow Stipe Miocic on Twitter! @stipemiocicufc