Croatian Champ Stipe Miocic Preps For Return As UFC Restarts

By 1 May 2020

May 1, 2020 — UFC champion Stipe Miocic, arguably the Croatian diaspora's most famous son, is ready to get back in the ring. The 37-year-old heavyweight champion told the Associated Press he's continued recovering from eye surgery while also working as a firefighter and paramedic during the coronavirus outbreak.

Ultimate Fighting has sought a way back into action during the COVID-19 pandemic. It reportedly ditched early plans to bypass government measures by holding fights on tribal land in California.

Its latest competition, UFC 249, is slated for May 9 in Jacksonville, Fla. at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. It makes Ultimate Fighting one of the first televised sports to return since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. No spectators will be allowed at the event.

Miocic is happy to see his sport return, as long as it doesn't lead to health problems.

“As long as everyone is safe, I hope it works out,” Miocic told the AP. “And not just the fighters, I worry about everyone’s safety. It takes one person to (infect) three people, and how fast it can spread, it’s crazy.”

 Miocic regained the UFC heavyweight title last August, beating Daniel Cormier at UFC 241. He's still recovering from a torn retina, which was surgically repaired after Cormier poked him in the eye.

Since then, Miocic has returned to civilian life, working for Ohio's Valley View Fire Department. He has teamed up with Modelo beer for a Cinco de Mayo fundraiser using the hashtag #CincUp.

The charismatic Miocic has been unabashedly loving towards his Croatian fans.

"You know, not every fighter has the luxury of me to be cheered on at the other end of the world by a whole country where he was not born," he told in an interview. "But I feel like a Croat, and I'm proud of my roots. I get a lot of support messages from Croatia, and it's a really wonderful feeling."

The health precautions he takes on a daily basis mirror everyone else's, except they are already part of the job.

 “We’re smart. We’re clean. We’re masked," he said. "We wear goggles, gloves, and gowns when we have to. It’s our routine, so I’m not really worried about that.”

The heavyweight's workouts also changed. Because of the outbreak, his usual routine's a no-go, joking instead he stays fit by chasing his little daughter.

A rematch of the Miocic-Cormier bout has been teased, but not officially announced.

Until then, Miocic has found a new hobby — telling the AP he finds joy in removing wallpaper.

"I'm good at bringing things down," he said.