CLEVELAND -- UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic became a firefighter/paramedic in order to help others in their time of need, and counts those in the firefighting profession as his heroes.
Miocic uses time away from The Octagon to visit with his brothers and sisters in arms, and tweeted a photo expressing his gratitude to the men and women of the FDNY (Fire Department of New York) for the sacrifices they made in an effort to save those affected by the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001.
“I will never stop being a firefighter,” Miocic tweeted. “You are my heroes. Forever grateful for those that made the ultimate sacrifice. #NeverForget.”
When the Ultimate Fighting Championship made its New York City debut at Madison Square Garden last November, Miocic was one of several fighters who joined in a weeklong schedule of events, and made sure to visit two FDNY firehouses to personally thank the men and women for their efforts.
It was on that visit that Miocic got a greater appreciation for the demands of being a first-responder in New York City.
“It was busy,” Miocic told WKYC.com when he returned from New York. “It was busy. It was definitely humbling because those guys, they put in work. Those guys put in a lot of work. Me, I’m a suburb guy. I put in work, but nowhere near what those guys do. Those guys do so many calls and put up with so much, especially with those small streets and traffic. I give those guys credit.
“I look at them, and I’m like, ‘You guys do the real work. I’m just a little boy compared to you guys.’ Those guys are monsters.”
By spending the time with New York City’s bravest, Miocic gained an even greater appreciation for the bond he has with his coworkers in the Cleveland suburbs of Oakwood Village and Valley View.
“There’s no question, we’ve got each other’s backs,” Miocic said. “It’s loyalty, and no matter what happens in a situation, we’ve all got each other’s backs.
“That’s why it’s not just one guy doing it, it’s a bunch of guys doing it, and we all have a plan. If somebody falters, we have another guy to pick him up or a bunch of guys to pick him up. That’s the best thing about being a firefighter, just the brotherhood. It’s a huge brotherhood, and I love it.”
On that fateful September day, 343 members of the FDNY perished when the Twin Towers collapsed in lower Manhattan, and dozens more first-responders have dealt with life-threatening illnesses in the 16 years since because of the hazardous materials released into the air at Ground Zero.
In order to help in whatever way he could, Miocic used his notoriety from the UFC to help his brother firefighters by donating $8 from the sale of each of his “Stand For The Fallen” t-shirts to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation over the holiday season last year.
“I’ve always wanted to help with some sort of firefighting, and my manager had a great idea to call the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, and it all worked out well,” Miocic said. “I got to go to two fire stations in New York. Great guys, great companies. Then, we just went from there. Here we are now, eight years I’ve been on, eight years I gave back, so I was happy I could help out.”
© 2017 WKYC-TV