Refreshed after extended break, UFC Champion Stipe Miocic ready to defend heavyweight crown: Photos

Preview: Stipe Niocic

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Cleveland-based mixed martial artist Stipe Miocic kept up a hectic fight schedule since joining the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2011, and after three bouts in 2016, including a title win and subsequent defense, the veteran needed some time away from active competition.

Following his successful title defense at Quicken Loans Arena in the main event of UFC 203 last September, Miocic requested and was granted an extended break from fighting. But now, that break is done and Miocic will defend the heavyweight championship for the second time when he faces Junior dos Santos at UFC 211 in Dallas Saturday night.

“It’s a layoff I wanted,” Miocic said. “I asked them for a couple months. I’ve never gotten to enjoy the holidays before, so I asked if I could have the holidays and take a couple months for myself, and they were okay with that. Now, I’m ready for May 13, Dallas, UFC 211.”

Miocic won the UFC Championship after delivering a right hand to Fabricio Werdum’s jaw in the main event of UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil, last May. Miocic added three shots to the downed Werdum before referee Dan Miragliotta jumped in-between the fighters to end the bout at 2:14 of the first round.

Then, four months later, Miocic successfully defended the heavyweight championship with a first-round knockout win over veteran contender Alistair Overeem in front of nearly 20,000 fans packed inside Quicken Loans Arena in a homecoming fight six years in the making.

After failing to lock in submission and take advantage of an early knockdown, Overeem attempted to throw a right leg kick when Miocic checked it and sent the challenger to the mat. After the takedown, Overeem pulled guard, but Miocic was not to be denied, as he landed a pair of right-handed hammer fists before throwing a left-right combination to his opponent’s face.

Following another left hand, Miocic landed four straight rights to Overeem’s jaw, knocking out the challenger with just 33 seconds left in the first round.

Although Miocic took the time off to take care of his family and himself and was out of the spotlight, he never stopped training, not especially with an entire division of contenders hungry for a shot at the title.

“I don’t stop training,” Miocic said. “I like staying in shape because I don’t want to get out of shape and have to start from scratch. I was just working on timing, working on conditioning, working on techniques that are new to me, getting old techniques better and just keep working.

“As much as I say, ‘I hate training,’ I love training. I have great coaches and teammates. I love coming here and having fun, but also, learning. I’m a big student of the game. I train a lot more when I don’t have a fight because there’s no pressure. I’m just getting better every day.”

By taking the break to let his body heal up after a three-fight year in 2016, Miocic feels ready to avenge one of the two losses in his career, which came via unanimous decision against dos Santos in December of 2014.

“Rejuvenated,” Miocic said. “I’m always hungry, but my body’s right. I’m getting older, man. It sucks getting out of bed some days, but I’m hungry like I always am, and I’m ready to defend the belt and keep it in Cleveland for a long time.”

WATCH: Matt Florjancic and Dave DeNatale preview the UFC 211 match between Stipe Miocic and Junior dos Santos in a special WKYC Facebook Live: 

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