UFC heavyweight Stipe Miocic (twitter: @smiocic) is used to stepping up to the plate.
That’s just what the 7-0 fighter will do tonight when he faces Sunderland, England’s 8-0 Philip De Fries at UFC on Fuel TV 1 in Omaha. Despite being only Miocic’s second UFC bout, the athlete told MMADiehards last Tuesday that he’s more than ready to swing for the fences tonight. After all, he said, he grew up playing baseball before battling in MMA.
“I tried to make my baseball dream happen and it didn’t work out,” Miocic confessed on MMA Beatdown last Tuesday. “I went back to school and was getting my paramedic and firefighting licenses when one of my friends had a buddy at the gym who wanted some help with his wrestling for a fight. I never left the gym and just fell in love with MMA.”
Miocic took part in America’s favorite pastime during high school while wrestling in the off-season. Enrolling at Cleveland State University afterwards, the Ohioan would become a ranked NCAA Division I wrestler by the time he graduated. Years later, Miocic said his time spent hitting the mats has helped him progress in the MMA world.
“MMA is like wrestling almost,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen. That’s the best thing about this sport.”
Officially hooked on the Octagon, Miocic said he soon joined Ohio’s Strong Style Fight Team and began a fight career in earnest. Winning six fights between 2010 and 2011, he debuted in the UFC last October at UFC 136 in Houston against Joey Beltran.
“I was the only new guy on that card,” Miocic recalled. “It was a little overwhelming. It was kind of like shellshock. I was like, ‘Holy crap,’ but it was still awesome.”
Miocic beat Beltran by unanimous decision and said he is now entirely focused on De Fries. Having already made his UFC debut, Miocic doubts he’ll feel nervous the next time the cage door closes.
“Beltran was tough and it’s not getting any easier,” he said. “De Fries is a tough dude too. I have a good work ethic I think. I think I can hang with these guys and keep getting better every day.”
Key to his duel with De Fries, Miocic said, is perfecting his overall game. Miocic said he loves learning the nuances of MMA, and as such, he tries to improve himself in as many areas as possible.
“One thing I’ve always done is make my weakness my strongest point,” Miocic said. “You can always fall back on the stuff you know. I have done wrestling for 15 years of my life so I can always go back to it. It’s like second nature.”
Though Miocic stopped competing in baseball long ago, he’ll be looking for a homerun tonight against De Fries. Though he admired the Brit’s submission skills, he said he’d come prepared to knock him out of the park.
“I like to take my time and learn, learn, learn and take it to my fight,” Miocic said. “I’ve been training for it and training for it with a lot of top quality guys. I think I’ll be OK. I’m inexperienced still but getting better everyday.”