Stipe Miocic on state of UFC heavyweight division, why Jake Paul vs. Tyron Woodley is 'great' for combat sports

Stipe Miocic, who recently helped launch a gym-revitalization project, tells Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole he's open to fighting anyone his next time out, including Jon Jones, in the UFC's suddenly crowded heavyweight division. The former champion also explains why he's OK with MMA fighters crossing over into boxing.

Video Transcript

KEVIN IOLE: Hey, folks. I am Kevin Iole. Welcome to Yahoo Sports. And my guest now is the former heavyweight champion of the UFC, Mr. Stipe Miocic. Stipe, how are you, my friend?

STIPE MIOCIC: Good, sir, how are you?

KEVIN IOLE: I am doing awesome. A lot to talk to you about since your fight with Francis Ngannou. But let's start-- you know, I know you're a guy that loves to do charity work, that loves to be involved in the community. And you've got a project that you're tackling that is starting in Cleveland, but it's going to go nationwide. Tell us a little bit about this, how you're going to be helping to renovate an MMA gym.

STIPE MIOCIC: Yeah, Modelo and UFC partnered up with the Rebuilding Together organization. And they're going across the country and they're rehabbing gyms. You know, they're maintenancing them, making them better. New mats, new bags, just new stuff for the gym. And gratefully, I was picked first in my hometown, where, actually, I was raised most of my childhood. So it was great to give back.

And I love what Modelo's all about. They're always wanting to give back. And that's what they're doing. That's why they got that fighting spirit in them.

KEVIN IOLE: When you look at a gym, like you know, it can change lives. People think it's just a place to get ready for a fight. But you know, we've heard so many professional fighters say, you know, how fighting has changed their lives. And I imagine there's people that we don't know of, that never went into professional fighting, that the same thing. Can you kind of address that? And what impact it, say, had on your life, being able to be a fighter and learning the discipline it takes?

STIPE MIOCIC: Yeah. With these gyms, you know, it's a place for people to vent and people to escape, and get a great workout there just to feel better about themselves. And when I started training mixed martial arts, going to the gym, it was always organized. It taught me a ton of discipline, responsibility. I'll say it over and over again, but that's what it did.

And it took me out of trouble, because I was only 21. I could go out to the bar any time I want, and I don't want to go. I was saving money. My friends were going out, but I was too tired. And I wouldn't get myself in trouble. And it kept me out of a lot of trouble that way, training all the times that I did.

KEVIN IOLE: Now, how is the project coming? How many gyms are going to be working in it? Are there going to be UFC fighters involved in each city that they renovate a gym?

STIPE MIOCIC: I do believe so. The first one's here with me. And so the mats and the bags and stuff like that, it was great. They repainted the walls, new lighting. So yeah, you know it's just awesome. Man, it's just really awesome to see, just because like, it doesn't get any better than that. Because you see these gyms that they're trying to make it a better place for people, especially kids. And you know, it gives-- it's tough to explain. I love it, it's just a revered spot.

KEVIN IOLE: Let's talk about you in the gym. Do you have any expectations for a fight coming up? Obviously, losing the title to Francis earlier this year. And it was a little bit of controversy. You kind of felt like you should have had the immediate rematch with Francis. I look back and I go, since 2018, you fought two guys in five fights, Francis and DC. Do you really want to see the same guy again?

STIPE MIOCIC: Yeah, I don't care, I just want my belt back. But in September, I'm gonna have a meeting with Dana, and we'll figure everything out from there.

KEVIN IOLE: When you look back on the fight, the last fight against Francis where you got stopped, is there anything you point to, any mistakes you made? Or was it just, you know, it just happened to be one of those things?

STIPE MIOCIC: I got knocked out. Yeah, you know, there's a lot of things I could work on, of course. It wasn't my night. He got the W, call it a good punch, and he got the win. I mean, nothing I can complain about.

KEVIN IOLE: Was he better-- in other words, did you see a significant difference in him from 2018 until earlier this year, in terms of the way he fought you and the way he was able to deal with your offense?

STIPE MIOCIC: Yeah, I think so. I think he definitely got better. He had to, otherwise he wasn't going to hit me. I know he throws hard, and it's hard. But I do believe he got better. But I mean, so have I. It just, unfortunately, like I said, it wasn't my night.

KEVIN IOLE: So you have no interest in John Jones? I mean, to me, that would be a fight that would be huge. Like, you have no interest in him?

STIPE MIOCIC: I'll fight anywhere. I've always said that I'll fight anyone. Never said I wouldn't. But I assume when I sit down with Dana here in September, we'll figure it all out. We'll have to figure it out, and we'll get it.

KEVIN IOLE: What was your take on the UFC's decision to put an interim title fight in there? Did that surprise you? And that affects you in some way, because now they're talking about having the interim fight the heavyweight champion. What was your take on that?

STIPE MIOCIC: Yeah, I mean, I don't know. I mean, it's not my decision. I'm a fighter, I'm not a matchmaker. I work in the UFC, I just fight. And you know, I [AUDIO OUT] match if I were, I would be in for the match. But I wouldn't to be able to take it anyway. But it would have been nice to have been asked. But for my, you know, moaning about it or whining about it, I just-- yeah. I mean, honestly, really, it's not my decision.

KEVIN IOLE: I think MMA is one of those sports, you know, guys step up, and all of a sudden, you become regarded as the next big thing. You know, Ciryl, obviously Shogun looked like a good fighter, as he was beaten by a senior, rose to strike some other people. But it was like quantum steps ahead what he did to Derek Lewis. As a fighter, as a former world champion, what was your impression of him? Did you watch the fight? And if you did-- so you didn't even see it. So, interesting. Have you seen Ciryl fight? Are you familiar with him?

STIPE MIOCIC: Yeah, I think I've seen him fight a couple times. Definitely a good fighter. He's great, he's very skilled, very smart, intelligent. He knows what he's doing. And he got where he's at today, is because he's a smart fighter, his intelligence and his great IQ.

KEVIN IOLE: You've been largely regarded as the greatest heavyweight of all time, with wins over DC and Francis and whatnot out there. Do you feel like the division now is better than it's ever been? Because as you look at the top, and especially if we add Jones into the division, you know, he hasn't fought yet, but if we add him in and say he's one of the guys in there, it seems like, to me anyways, there's more guys that are capable of winning the championship than there's ever been before.

STIPE MIOCIC: Oh, definitely. I think there's a lot-- I mean, especially in the top 10, it takes one punch, you've got a guy very, very intense. But it takes one of the heavyweights. You get a big man with little gloves, anything can happen. I think there's a lot of up-and-comers, a lot of good fighters in the heavyweight division. I think where it needs to be right now, it's right here.

KEVIN IOLE: That's awesome. How much more do you want to fight? I mean, you know, you've never struck me as a guy that, like, had this incredible passion for fighting. And Manny Pacquiao just fought his 73rd fight here the other day. And you never strike me as a guy, Stipe, that has-- I know you like it or you wouldn't be doing it, but I mean, has that same type of passion to fight like crazy like that. So how much longer do you want to do this?

STIPE MIOCIC: I don't know. I don't really-- but I think about retiring after every fight, since UFC 136 with Joey Beltran. But I really haven't thought about it. As long as I'm having fun and I feel good. I feel good and I'm having fun, so--

KEVIN IOLE: Well, let me ask you, though. I mean, I just said my impression, but I got the man right here. Do you love it? I mean, you know, what is it that you love about fighting?

STIPE MIOCIC: I just love the team aspect, organization. Just going there, pass with the team. It's like, high school again. You go there, just get warmed up, talk to the guys, see how their day was. You know, it's almost like a venting session, and just therapy, almost. And it just feels good, I just love everything about it.

KEVIN IOLE: That is fantastic. You know, one of the things I'm not so crazy about is happening in your town this week. Jake Paul is going to be fighting UFC welterweight champ Tyron Woodley. What is your take on these fight? You know, Oscar De La Hoya is fighting Vitor Belfort next month. I'm just not into him. And hey, I'm glad guys are making money and I don't want to stop anybody from making money. But from a competitive sports standpoint, it doesn't seem too good to me. What's your take?

STIPE MIOCIC: I think it's great. I see a pretty different aspect of sports, both boxing, MMA, all combat. I think definitely, people want to see, people love drama, and just creating-- because you know, what if, or what happens when they fight? And this is great. I think it's great, honestly. But also I love it, it's in Cleveland. It's definitely making the city look better, giving people more jobs and stuff like that.

KEVIN IOLE: You know, you're a former Golden Gloves champion, you know what it is to box. But you know, it seems like one of the things I don't like is, you know, Jake Paul's fighting all these MMA fighters. I shouldn't say all, but a couple of MMA fighters. And it's different striking, right? It's not the same as boxing striking. So then when he beats them, it's like, a-ha, MMA is not any good! And do you worry, as a mixed martial artist, that it could be putting a bad impression on the sport that's made you famous?

STIPE MIOCIC: No, I don't think so. I mean, the different combat. Like, with MMA, you got to worry about 75 different things. You know, I go to where it takes me, knuckles, grappling, wrestling, just everything. But boxing, you just got to worry about strikes and just moving around, making sure you're doing the right thing, keeping your guard up. But I don't think so. I think it actually helps the sport, just because it brings a new genre to the sport.

KEVIN IOLE: Awesome. Well, Stipe, we appreciate you, brother. You will be in, I guess in Las Vegas, to meet with Dana, right?


KEVIN IOLE: Hopefully get a chance to see you then. All the best. We appreciate your time, my man.

STIPE MIOCIC: You as well. Have a great day.

KEVIN IOLE: Thank you.