It’s funny how one perfectly placed punch on the chin can not only change the course of the fight game’s history, but how it can alter the perception of the two men who were doing battle.
The right hand that Daniel Cormier landed on Stipe Miocic’s chin late in the first round of their July 7, 2018, bout at UFC 226, not only made Cormier the heavyweight champion, but forever ensured he’d be one of the UFC’s most beloved champions.
Before that punch landed, Miocic was regarded as the best heavyweight champion in the UFC’s brief history, and he cut an extraordinary figure as a guy who still worked for a living and loved nothing more than life, sports and chugging a cold beer or two.
How could you not love a guy who only hours after returning home from winning the world title showed up at a Cleveland Indians game and wound up smacking homers into the stands during batting practice?
Cormier, though, called Miocic a brat for refusing to fight unless he got a rematch. Cormier did the UFC a favor and made a successful title defense against Derrick Lewis when the company needed a main event for UFC 230 at Madison Square Garden.
And then he planned to fight WWE superstar Brock Lesnar, a former UFC heavyweight champion, in what would have been one of the most lucrative bouts in UFC history.
Miocic repeatedly insisted that it should have been he, not Lewis and certainly not Lesnar, who got those shots.
That led some to sour on him. The rematch is approaching on Saturday and Cormier enters it as a conquering hero, while Miocic is left to listen to fan and media complaints about what has happened in the division in the last 13 months.
He’s hardly affected by it, though. He just shrugs his broad shoulders and insists he’s long since moved on. His daughter, his first child, was born two weeks after the bout and any grousing he did about his defeat ended the moment she was born.
“If I had any issues about the fights, it was for just two weeks,” he said. “Any parent will tell you what a great feeling it is when you have your first child. My mind was off of the fight almost right away. It’s not like I was brooding about it or angry about it for a long time. I let it go a long time ago. If fans are upset, it is what it is. I can’t worry about what anyone else thinks. I have to do what is best for me and my family and that’s what I’ve tried to do.”
Miocic couldn’t understand why Lesnar was even in the title picture. He noted that he had tested positive multiple times and that it had been several years since he’d won a fight legitimately.
But he even shrugged that off, because he has the rematch now and all he has to do is perform like he’s done so often before.
Cormier said during an interview with Yahoo Sports that he sees holes in Miocic’s game and said he makes the same mistakes repeatedly. Cormier said he took advantage of one of them to knock Miocic out last year and claim the title.
As a reporter relayed Cormier’s quote about mistakes Miocic made to him, Miocic laughed.
“Yes, 100 percent I made a mistake, but this sport is all about mistakes,” Miocic said. “Every fighter who has ever set foot in the [Octagon] has made mistakes. He makes mistakes, too, and does the same ones over and over. I don’t spend much time thinking of that because it’s just all talk that doesn’t mean anything.
“Not just this last fight, but every fight, we go through it and we see what I did wrong and we try to figure how we can fix it and how we can be better the next time. I just laugh when I hear stuff like this. It’s not like he knows something about me that I don’t know or that my coaches don’t know. I just picked a bad time to make a mistake, and he capitalized on it.”
He’s not brooding or angry or upset or however he’s been described. He’s the guy next door who had one bad night at the office and doesn’t expect to have many others. He’s loving life as a father and, like most new dads, he can’t resist bragging about his child.
His child, Meelah Claire Miocic, was walking and talking before she was a year old, he said. Meelah will go to Disneyland on Thursday with his wife while the ex-champion handles media day duties.
But he says he’s in a good place and he sounds like it. He also wants to use his perseverance as an example for Meelah later in her life.
“No matter who you are, you’re going to face challenges in life and there is going to be some adversity,” he said. “It’s not just that you’ve gotten knocked down; what’s important is that you get yourself up and how you handle it. I want her to understand that. Life isn’t always going to be perfect, and you can’t control everything that happens. But you can control how you react to it.”
He plans to show how he’s reacted to it by winning the fight. He says he’s better than Cormier in all positions and plans to demonstrate that on Saturday.
It will, he said, be a lesson to everyone who faces challenges in their lives. Get up, dust yourself off and get back into the battle.
It’s what Miocic plans to do when he sees Cormier inside of a locked cage for the second time, that’s for sure.
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