Stipe Miocic upends UFC tradition after derailing the Francis Ngannou hype train

Dan WetzelColumnist
Yahoo Sports
Stipe Miocic celebrates after his unanimous-decision victory over Francis Ngannou. (Getty Images)
Stipe Miocic celebrates after his unanimous-decision victory over Francis Ngannou. (Getty Images)

BOSTON – After title fights in the UFC, tradition has it that company president Dana White takes the championship belt and wraps it around the waist of the winner. It’s been that way for, well, forever.

They had a heavyweight title fight here on Saturday and Stipe Miocic won, defeating Francis Ngannou by lopsided unanimous decision, 50-44 on all three scorecards. As the result was being announced inside the Octagon, White showed up with the belt. Miocic, however, walked over, grabbed it from him, handed it to one of his coaches and had the coach wrap it around his waist.

It was not an accident.

“My dude,” Miocic said of the coach. “That dude respect me. I respect him. End of story.”

Does that mean Miocic doesn’t believe Dana White respects him?

“I don’t know, I don’t really care,” Miocic said.

Miocic did not hide his feelings that he had heard enough about Ngannou in the pre-fight hype this week.

The UFC, the Miocic camp felt, saw this night as some kind of coronation, the start of the Ngannou era, where this mountain of a man would deliver a Mike Tyson-style knockout to electrify the heavyweight division and future pay-per-view sales. There is little question the 6-4, 263-pound Ngannou can deliver the highlight-reel finishes due to his supreme power.

“It’s hard,” Miocic said of Ngannou’s punches. “No question. You want to get hit by it? It sucked. Look at my eye.”

It was black and swollen. Not that it mattered. The belt still belonged to Miocic, much, at least to his thinking, to the dismay of the UFC.

“It was the Stipe show tonight,” Miocic said. “It wasn’t about him, it was about me. I broke the record.”

That would be the record for most title defenses in heavyweight title history with three. It was also his sixth straight win. He can rightfully claim himself the greatest heavyweight in UFC history. While that hasn’t been enough for Miocic to move the needle on pay-per-view sales, he clearly has no interest in going anywhere.

Dana White and Co. can hype up a guy like Ngannou all they want, but inside the Octagon a smaller fighter — Miocic weighed in at 246 pounds on Friday — completely dominated due to a well-rounded game and superior strategy.

“‘He’s a phenom. He’s one in a million,’” Miocic said, mocking the pre-fight promotion for Ngannou. “Well, guess what, he lost. He lost to a Midwest boy who was 40 pounds lighter than him.”

Yeah, Miocic was a bit salty after. He wasn’t interested in talking about Dana White, who he says denied they have a conflict going. He wasn’t interested in discussing how fights are promoted. He wasn’t interested in figuring out where he fit in the promotion’s star-making machine.

Line them up and he’ll knock them down. Like it or hate it. Whatever.

“I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing,” Miocic said. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it …

“Nothing is ever easy. That’s why I love being from Cleveland, because nothing is ever given.”

Essentially Miocic is saying the UFC is going to have to figure out what to do with him. If they can’t sell what he does then that’s on them. He still works as a firefighter in Independence, Ohio, and treasures that. He and his wife have a daughter on the way. He was really looking forward to getting home and watching some football and hopefully clearing his driveway with his new snow blower.

“I hope it snowed a lot,” he said.

To some, this isn’t very colorful. To others, this is the regular guy/sporting hero they covet. There are a lot of people out there who like plowing their own snow or mowing their own lawn or guys who don’t care what anyone thinks about them.

Plenty of them were at TD Garden on Saturday, where “Stipe” chants reigned down. Maybe he’s turning the corner.

Winning solves everything and at some point, fans will have to appreciate the genius of what Miocic has done. He bested Ngannou by taking a few shots and letting the big guy tire out. Once that was done, Miocic repeatedly took the fight to the mat. There were few fireworks in the final three rounds, but it was an overwhelming victory, 200-33 in punches landed.

“I could see his will was dwindling away,” Miocic said. “I could see it in his face.”

Ngannou didn’t deny it.

“He was tougher than I thought,” Ngannou said. “I touched him. And I thought he would go down. But he didn’t … I don’t think he has knockout power. He just had a real good game plan.”

Ngannou didn’t mean that as slight, just an observation. Whatever. Miocic wore the look of a champion. He began mocking the pre-fight discussion in the media, which helped send Miocic off as an underdog despite being the reigning champion.

“‘Oh my god, he’s going to get knocked out in the first round,’” Miocic said before looking at his championship belt. “Guess what, it’s still mine.”

It was a belt that he didn’t allow Dana White to put around his waist. The champion doesn’t always say much, but when he does, the message comes through.

The hell with UFC tradition.

Stipe Miocic isn’t going anywhere, it’s long past time to respect that.

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