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MMA — How one of the best feuds in the UFC can make Stipe Miocic more marketable


BOSTON – Stipe Miocic is known as “The Baddest Man on the Planet.”

He’s certainly not the first heavyweight champion to lay claim to that nickname. If you type the phrase into Google, you’ll get the Wikipedia bio of Mike Tyson as well as suggestions for Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather and Evander Holyfield.

Miocic is obviously not as well known as the other men who have held that nickname, but he certainly backed it up and cemented his place in UFC history when he dominated No. 1 contender Francis Ngannou, who was the favorite in Vegas, through five rounds at UFC 220. In the process, Miocic became the first heavyweight champion in UFC history to successfully defend the title three consecutive times.

It has been more than three years since Miocic has lost a fight, as he currently holds a six-match winning streak, which included five straight by knockout and four straight in the first round heading into Saturday night. He has defeated Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos and now Ngannou in making a case for being the greatest heavyweight champion in UFC history.

The problem for Miocic and the UFC is few outside the world of mixed martial arts know who Miocic is.

That probably had a lot to do with the perception that the UFC and Dana White, in particular, wanted Ngannou to beat Miocic. This wasn’t simply the perception from outsiders but from Miocic himself, as he heard White say that Ngannou “looks like the heavyweight champion of the world” and “a rock star globally” in the lead-up to the fight.

Ngannou has the look and feel of “The Baddest Man on the Planet,” and more importantly for the UFC and White, he could be marketed as such and perhaps could have been turned into the company’s next star if he had beaten Miocic. In fact, the main event was hyped as being a battle of “The Baddest Men on the Planet.” Ngannou, who had won 10 straight fights and four straight via first round knockouts, wasn’t just going to take Miocic’s title, he was going to take his nickname too.

Miocic felt disrespected, which isn’t the first time he has felt slighted by the UFC and White. Despite being the best heavyweight in the company for three years, going into Saturday night, Miocic’s last fight against Junior dos Santos at UFC 211 was the first time he made more than his opponent. At UFC 203, in Miocic’s hometown of Cleveland, Miocic was the headliner and world champion and made $600,000 with no win bonus compared to Alistair Overeem, who was paid $800,000 for getting knocked out in the first round by Miocic. In his previous three wins, Miocic made less than half of his opponent.

While the UFC could do a better job of marketing Miocic, it’s not difficult to see why White would want to see a new UFC heavyweight champion. Miocic headlined three UFC pay-per-views heading into Saturday night, and the only one that did remotely well was largely because of the presence of former WWE champion CM Punk. UFC 198 had a buy rate of 197,000; UFC 203, which had Punk’s UFC debut, had a buy rate of 450,000; and UFC 211 had a buy rate of 300,000. The buy rate of UFC 220 isn’t expected to do much better than 300,000.

Those numbers simply don’t align with someone who is “The Baddest Man on the Planet” and the greatest heavyweight champion in UFC history.

The bad blood between Miocic and White was evident immediately after the fight, when he grabbed his championship belt out of the hands of White — who was about to wrap it around Miocic’s waist — and gave it to his coach, so he could wrap it around his waist instead.

“That’s my dude,” Miocic said. “That dude respects me and I respect him. End of story.”

The obvious inference there was that White perhaps doesn’t respect Miocic, which is why he didn’t want White wrapping the title around his waist.

“I don’t know,” Miocic said when asked if he thought White respected him. “I don’t really care.”

Will Miocic’s win at UFC 220 force him and White to sit down and repair what is clearly a broken relationship between the UFC president and the company’s greatest heavyweight champion ever?

“No, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing,” Miocic said. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? Honestly, I don’t really care. I have so much on my plate right now. I’m so happy. My beautiful wife has our child on the way, I’m very lucky, my coaches are here, and they’re amazing. I’m not worried about repairing anything.”

Miocic has often said he isn’t interested in being someone he’s not in order to become the face of UFC. He knows why someone like Conor McGregor garners all the headlines, and he’s not interested in going down that road no matter how profitable it may be.

“I’m going to be me,” Miocic once told me. “What you see on ‘Embedded,’ that’s how I am 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year. That’s exactly how I am. I’m surprised my wife hasn’t left me yet, because she puts up with a lot of [stuff]. I’m never going to change. If they want to promote me, awesome, but I’m not going to beg for it. I’m going to be the guy I am — a normal Midwest boy that loves to fight and likes to win and is a fireman.”

But Miocic’s dislike of White could end up being a blessing in disguise for both Miocic and the UFC if Mioic simply stays true to himself and tells the world what he really thinks of White. Miocic isn’t much of a trash-talker. He has no ill will towards his opponents and will always shake their hand at weigh-ins and at press conferences and sing their praises. He never elicits the kind of drama that will draw in casual fans and boost the pay-per-view buy rate.

But there’s nothing about the way he has been treated by White and UFC that is artificial. He was clearly disrespected going into Saturday’s fight, and it clearly was on his mind afterwards.

“Everyone s—- on me,” Miocic said. “It was the Stipe show tonight. It wasn’t about him. It was about me, because I’m the champ. I broke the record. I’m the best … I beat the guy that everyone said I couldn’t beat, so it made it that much sweeter. This guy’s a phenom, one in a million, blah, blah, blah. Well, guess what? He lost to a Midwest boy who’s 40 pounds lighter than him, and I’m the greatest heavyweight. I’ve defended (the title) three times. No one’s ever done that.”

It was as if Miocic was talking to White as he looked at the cameras pointed at him at the postfight news conference. But no one outside of MMA fans picked up on Miocic’s belt snub in the octagon or knows much about his disdain for White. That wouldn’t be the case if Miocic actually called out White in the octagon and in the postfight news conference. A feud between Miocic and White would do wonders for Miocic and, in the process, for White and UFC, and the best part about it is there’s nothing artificial about it.

Miocic proved on Saturday he was “The Baddest Man on the Planet,” but the next step for him and the UFC before his next fight is finding a way for him to be the most marketable UFC heavyweight champion on the planet, and perhaps the best way towards that path is turning up the volume on what is one of the best feuds in the UFC that no one outside MMA fans know about.



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