It’s not the fight Stipe Miocic was hoping for, but at least he’s fighting.
Initially slated to face former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos at The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 Finale, Miocic enters the Octagon on May 31 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, against Fabio Maldonado, who agreed to move up from light heavyweight to headline the card.
"It sucks because I wanted to fight Junior, try to work towards fighting for the championship but it happens," Miocic told MMAFighting.com. "It’s part of the game. We all get hurt, we train hard. I’m moving on.
"He’s a tough guy and I’m sure it will be a hell of a fight. I talked to the UFC and it’s what they wanted. Maldonado stepped up so I took the fight."
Miocic has a 5-1 UFC record, while Maldonado enters the cage in a three-fight win streak.
"I watched his fights," Miocic said. "He’s a good boxer and he’s a super, super tough guy. He’s a stubborn [laughs]. It’s a fight, anything can happen in a fight. It is what it is. I’m going down to Brazil and fight in his country."
Miocic is clearly disappointed with moving from facing a former champion to a 5-round fight against an opponent who is not ranked in the top 15 of a lower division, but he’s glad he’s at least entering the Octagon.
"Or course," he said when asked if he was frustrated with the change. "Fighting Junior, he’s a heavyweight, but it’s a fight no matter what, rankings or not. Fabio Maldonado is a super tough guy and I’m just glad he took the fight. I’m excited he took the fight. I’m glad he stepped up so I can do what I love."
Right after the fight was announced, Maldonado said he expected a "bloody, violent" stand-up war with Miocic. The heavyweight welcomes a good boxing fight, but plans to do whatever it takes to get the win back home.
"First and foremost, I think about getting the win," he said. "About a good show, I’m here for the ‘W.’ It’s not going to be easy. There are no easy fights, especially in the UFC. I’m going out there to do my job."
Miocic hopes to fight dos Santos in the future, but he won’t look past Maldonado.
"Yeah, but right now I’m worrying about May 31," Miocic said about a fight "Cigano" next. "That’s what I care about. Right now I’m thinking about Fabio Maldonado on May 31. After that, we’ll see what happens."