CLEVELAND -- The Ultimate Fighting Championship will make its long-awaited debut in Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night, and a native son will defend his championship belt in main event bout.
Cleveland’s Stipe Miocic will face off against top-ranked contender Alistair Overeem for the heavyweight championship of the world, and he could not be happier to defend the title inside The Octagon in his hometown.
“It being in Cleveland for the first time is amazing,” Miocic said during his training camp. “I don’t have to travel, which is always a positive. I’m excited. Cleveland, it’s time for the UFC to come here, and it showed when it went on sale. I think it got sold out in less than two days or three days, something crazy like that. People are looking for tickets still, and they’re not selling because they’re completely sold out, which is amazing.
“Cleveland, the Northeast Ohio area is just such a hotbed for MMA. There’s such good teams around here, just good fighters, and it’s amazing, man. It doesn’t get any better than that, and finally, we get to bring it to Cleveland, which is what we’ve been waiting for, for a long time.”
Although Miocic will be fighting in Cleveland for the first time since winning the NAAFS (North American Allied Fight Series) heavyweight championship with a submission win over Bobby Brents on June 4, 2011, the UFC titlist feels no added pressure.
“I fought here my whole amateur career and first couple pro fights, so nothing’s changed,” Miocic said. “I’m going to go in there, do my job and walk out as the world champ.
“I know it’s going to be crazy, but I’m not going to worry about that. I’m going to worry about Overeem. That’s all I care about. That’s all I have my mind and my eyes on.”
Miocic won the UFC Championship after delivering a right hand to the jaw of Fabricio Werdum in the main event of UFC 198 at the Arena Atletico Paranaense in Curitiba, Brazil, on May 14
The former champion was chasing Miocic around the outer rim of The Octagon, and left his chin exposed. Despite backing away from Werdum’s pursuit, Miocic threw a powerful right hand that floored the defending champion.
Miocic added three shots to the downed Werdum before referee Dan Miragliotta jumped in-between the fighters to end the championship bout at 2:14 of the first round.
By winning the title over Werdum, Miocic set off a winning streak for Cleveland, as the former Lake Erie Monsters followed by sweeping their way to the Calder Cup title and the Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 series deficit against the Golden State Warriors to win the NBA Championship for the first time in their history.
And that is a streak Miocic is looking to extend Saturday night.
“It’s about damn time,” Miocic said of the championship wins. “It’s about damn time. This city’s awesome, man, and it’s about time we got some respect. We’re a city of champions, and we’re going to keep it that way for a long time.”
This is Part Two of our six-story series leading up to Miocic's UFC heavyweight championship bout against Overeem in Cleveland Saturday night.