CLEVELAND -- UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic kicked off a title run in Cleveland with his knockout of Fabricio Werdum in the main event of UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil, on May 14, but top contender Alistair Overeem aims to bring the good times to a screeching halt.
Overeem will take on Miocic in the champion’s first title defense in the main event of UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena tonight, and plans on adding the missing piece of his two-decade mixed martial arts career to the trophy case.
“This is definitely going to be the crown of my career,” Overeem said during the pre-fight press conference. “I’m very much looking forward to Saturday. It’s going to be a great night.
“I was here during the parade. It was madness. It was nice to see a very proud state finally accomplish championships. I almost feel a little bit sad that I’m going to be taking something away from them, but I will be taking that something away this Saturday.”
Heading into tonight’s title fight with Miocic, Overeem is on a four-fight winning streak with victories over former UFC champions in Andre Arlovski and Junior dos Santos. Three of those four victories have come via knockout or TKO in the first or second rounds of competition.
Additionally, Overeem, a former K-1 World Grand Prix Kickboxing Champion and former Strikeforce and DREAM heavyweight titlist, has defeated each of the last two fighters to get the best of Miocic, dos Santos and Stefan Struve.
“It definitely does feel special, and there’s definitely that extra tingling of nerves,” Overeem said. “Sometimes, you don’t have any nerves. Sometimes, you have a little bit of nerves. This is a little bit of nerves, but we’ve been here. This is going to be my 87th fight. We’ve been here, done that. I use that tension and nerves to my advantage. We will come out on top on Saturday.”
While Overeem will have to handle a home-field advantage for Miocic fighting in front of his Cleveland fans, the challenger plans on using the energy inside Quicken Loans Arena to his advantage.
“I enjoy all energy,” Overeem said. “Listen, I get energy from everybody, and to be honest, when you’re at the top, you’re going to have a lot of hate and you’re going to have a lot of love. I embrace both of them. They’re both part of the journey.
“Of course, Stipe is going to be the hometown hero. Everybody will be rooting for him. Not everybody, but 99.8 percent. But everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. I’m entitled to my opinion. We’re here for one goal and one goal only. We’re going to cement my legacy. We’re going to get that championship belt. There will be history and the after-party for some people will not be as nice.”