Everything happens for a reason, many say, and as painful as it was to surrender his heavyweight belt to Daniel Cormier last year, Stipe Miocic has now come to believe the adage.
A few days after the surprising first-round knockout defeat in Las Vegas in July, Miocic returned to his home near Cleveland and relished the birth of his daughter, Meelah.
“I was able to hang out with her a lot, relax a bit, catch my breath and start fresh. It’s been kind of nice,” Miocic said.
His down time was increased both by Cormier’s move to take a November title defense and by the repeat flirtation with the UFC and its owners by WWE performer and former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.
The UFC initially gave Lesnar a title shot at Cormier instead of Miocic (18-3), whose three consecutive title-defense victories are the most in company history.
But when Lesnar informed the UFC he was retiring from mixed martial arts last week, the UFC made Cormier-Miocic II for Aug. 17 at Honda Center in Anaheim, with tickets going on sale June 14.
Miocic impressed Cormier with his social-media game, pressing for the rematch after the first meeting ended with a sudden Cormier punch to the jaw.
“They called me a crybaby, but I don’t really care,” Miocic said of his jabbing of Cormier.
The knockout “was a lapse of judgment. I was tired, but he caught me right in the sweet spot. I know I’m a better fighter than him. … He’s done a lot of great things and has beaten me and a lot of tough guys. It’ll be a tough fight, but this time it’ll be a different outcome.”
Miocic said he believes his time away from a pending fight date and a champion’s public obligations will result in a recharged showing.
“I’m enjoying myself for a change, not dealing with, ‘I’m going to do this, going to do that … ,’” he said.
“And I don’t care how good you, in this type of fighting, [losses are] going to happen to you eventually. I’ve lost to tough guys.
“I can tell you losing to D.C. hurts me every day. It’s why I’m an athlete. It drives me. But my daughter took my mind off it. And I know now it was definitely a one-time deal. I’m going to get this guy back. I think about it more in a good way now — ‘what if I do this?,’ and ‘I can do this … .’”
He’s also thrilled that the assignment to Anaheim will allow him, his wife and daughter a trip to Disneyland as part of the journey back to the belt. Meelah’s birthday is July 25, her dad’s is Aug. 19.
He said the challenge of resurrecting from defeat is something he knows well as an impassioned fan of Cleveland’s usually suffering pro sports teams.
Now, he has the opportunity to provide his city a jolt of excitement to set up an expected serious playoff run by the Cleveland Browns and new wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.