The fire-fighting, toilet-scrubbing heavyweight king set to defend his title at UFC 252 against Daniel Cormier
When Stipe Miocic landed one devastating right hand to the chin of Fabricio Werdum in 2016, the 45,000 fans in attendance were stunned into complete silence.
The crowd in Curitiba, Brazil had watched their hero felled with a single punch, his heavyweight belt prised away as his consciousness slowly returned.
For Miocic, the celebrations lasted less than 24 hours as the new UFC heavyweight champion was back scrubbing toilets in his home town of Cleveland, Ohio.
Perhaps some perspective is necessary, Miocic does not do this of his own volition. The ‘Baddest Man on the Planet’ volunteers at the Valley View Fire Department and is a trained paramedic.
The now-iconic images of Miocic jumping onto the cage in Brazil and celebrating with his coaches before getting the belt wrapped around his waist were quickly replaced by grimaces as he returned home to scrub the toilets of his station.
“That’s the big one,” Jamie Meklemburg, a close friend and fellow firefighter in Cleveland, told ESPN in 2018.
“We make sure that his first shift after his fights, he knows we’re going to have him clean the toilets. He’s tried to avoid it, but we save that for him.”
After 12 months out of the octagon, Miocic will return to action on August 15 for his trilogy bout with Daniel Cormier.
Having successfully usurped ‘DC’ at UFC 241 last summer, the heavyweight champion is seeking yet another defence of his heavyweight crown with the scores between the two men tied at one apiece, with the action free on talkSPORT 2 at 1am on Sunday.
In a division so stacked with talent and dangerous fighters, it seems even more incredible the third fight between these two men will certainly define their greatest heavyweight of the current era.
For Miocic, the chance to go down in history as the greatest heavyweight in UFC history is tantalisingly close.
The 37-year-old is a former Golden Gloves boxing champion and a NCAA I Division wrestler at Cleveland State University, an indication of his exceptional abilities and dedication to his craft.
Raised by Croatian immigrants, Stipe decided to live with his mother when his parents separated. His mother pushed him to compete in various different sports and he was an outstanding baseball player – receiving interest from Major League Baseball sides.
Working out of the Strong Style Fight Team, it was clear his true calling lay in fight sports and he quickly amassed a 6-0 record in MMA – all while continuing to gain paramedic education at community college.
In 2011, he signed for the UFC on a multi-fight deal and recorded several bonus-winning performances as he made a name for himself as a deadly stand-up boxer and lethal finisher.
However, Miocic’s most crucial role lies at the fire station – working as a paramedic and also preparing equipment for his senior members of staff for when they are on call. According to Fire Chief Ken Papesh, this is ‘probably the most important role in the station’.
Papesh has worked alongside with Miocic for more than a decade and there is one story which stands out for the veteran first responder; when Miocic responded to a complaint by a woman about her chest pains.
The heavyweight champion and a colleague travelled to the women’s place of business and convinced her to check it out, despite her claims the pain had subsided and there was nothing to worry about anymore.
Miocic sat in the back of the ambulance with her on the way to the hospital when she entered cardiac arrest. Papesh told ESPN how one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters on the planet may have saved her life.
“Stipe said her name and she didn’t answer,” Papesh says. “And he looked at the monitor and was like ‘oh my gosh.’
“He started CPR on her and got the defibrillator and shocked her to get her back. She ended up having open heart surgery and was able to leave the hospital fully mentally and physically intact because of what he did.”
After defeating Francis Ngannou at UFC 220 and establishing himself as perhaps the greatest heavyweight of all time, he was then crudely brought back down to earth with a shock first-round knockout at the hands of Cormier.
Although he would claim his revenge 12 months later, the win came at a cost as inadvertent eye pokes by the former two-weight world champion left him requiring surgery to reattach his retina.
And way before the third fight was officially confirmed, Miocic only had one battle on his mind.
“Right now my fight is with the coronavirus,” Miocic told Ariel Helwani during an Instagram live interview at the height of lockdown.
“Not worried about [people asking about his UFC return] right now.
“Task at hand, right now I’m worried about what’s going on in the world. Once this is over with and get back a normal life, then we’ll worry about it.”
It’s a shame there will be no fans in attendance to witness two of the greatest heavyweights in history, but the down to earth Miocic sees a positive.
“It’s probably the first time in my life I’m fighting and no one is telling me I suck.”
Miocic vs Cormier at UFC 252 is live on talkSPORT 2 this Sunday. Adam Catterall, Nick Peet and Dan Hardy will bring you all the action from 1am