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Stipe Miocic says Alistair Overeem got ‘sloppy’ against Francis Ngannou: ‘I’m not going to be stupid’

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UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic will have a tall task in front of him on Jan. 20 when he faces off against up-and-coming knockout artist Francis Ngannou at UFC 220.

Miocic will enter the contest having won five consecutive fights by KO/TKO, including a trio of championship victories via first-round stoppage. But in Ngannou, he faces a heavyweight with frightening ability to separate opponents from their consciousness, and also a man who is being touted as the next potential superstar of the division.

But if Miocic is concerned, he isn’t showing it.

“I’m excited, man,” Miocic said Wednesday on the Joe Rogan Experience. “Listen, he’s a good, tough dude. I mean, he can bring the pain. So will I. But unfortunately I’m not walking out without that belt. I’m still the champ. It’ll be ‘and still.’”

While Miocic has defeated a litany of legendary names throughout his rise as UFC champion, Ngannou presents a different kind of challenge than the Ohio native has faced before. In a division overflowing with fighters from the old guard, the 31-year-old Ngannou is a new breed of contender — one whose work ethic and remarkable natural gifts have propelled him to the highest stage of the sport less than five years after Ngannou first stepped foot in an MMA gym.

And Miocic was blunt was asked what it was that separated Ngannou from the rest of the next crop of heavyweight contenders.

“His power, I guess, but I think everyone hits hard in the heavyweight division,” Miocic said. “I mean, 260-pound men, 250-pound men, you’re not supposed to be hit by something like that. I fought ‘JDS,’ I fought Alistair (Overeem), I fought Mark Hunt. I fought guys who threw hard. And he’s a little wild too, which, that’s tough. Sometimes you can’t prepare for that because there’s punches you don’t see.

“Every guy is different, every fight is different,” Miocic added. “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh my God, his punching power.’ Listen, there’s a lot of guys who hit hard. There’s no question, he does hit hard, but I’m not going to be stupid and put myself in a position where I’m going to get hit. I’m going to do things that make him feel uncomfortable, and I’m going to do what I’m going to do. I’m not going to sit there and let him do what he wants. I’m going to dictate what I want.”

Miocic also noted Ngannou’s marked improvement from fight to fight, though he downplayed the significance of what that could mean at UFC 220.

“He’s definitely gotten better, there’s no question, but we’ll see what happens. Listen, I’m going out there for broke. I’m going out there to win,” Miocic said.

“I’ll find out Jan. 20. I think I’ll be alright. I have the best coaches in the world, I’m pretty confident walking in there. He’s a big dude, throws hard, but that’s every heavyweight. It doesn’t take much.”

Ngannou’s growth was on full display this month at UFC 218 when “The Predator” scored a scary, first-round knockout of Alistair Overeem that left the veteran unconscious on the canvas for several minutes.

Miocic also defeated Overeem recently, having scored a first-round knockout over “The Reem” last year at UFC 203, and the 31-year-old champion pointed out that Overeem brought a very different strategy to UFC 203 than he did against Ngannou.

“I think Overeem really was just kinda being a little sloppy (against Ngannou) and then put his face right in the lane,” Miocic said.

“When I fought him, he was very traditional, moving around, running, but keeping his distance. Like, okay cool, that’s a fight. Then he tried that lunging — I don’t know what kind of kick — to my thigh and I grabbed it and took him down. But, I didn’t watch the whole fight with Ngannou, but what I saw was he (Overeem) was throwing all these wild punches. When he fought me, he was throwing straights and he wasn’t really [throwing anything wild].”

With two months left before UFC 220, Miocic and host Joe Rogan broached several other topics as well over the course of their two-hour conversation.

Most notably, Miocic threw his support behind the growing push for more weight classes in MMA. Miocic said his team has weighed the options of dropping down to light heavyweight in the past, but that such a move would be “really tough” for him.

However, if a 225-pound cruiserweight division was added, Miocic, who usually hovers around the 240-pound range, would be open to testing the waters for a dual-title run.

“If they had a 225 class, all day, I could easy make that. Easy,” Miocic said.

“I think it’d be great. I’d be aboard for that.”

As for his next test, Miocic was consistently quick to give Ngannou respect, but he also made it clear that things will be all business once Jan. 20 rolls around.

“I think he’s a great fighter,” Miocic said. “Definitely, he brings it. Hits hard. But unfortunately nothing’s going to change. I’m walking out with the belt still wrapped around my waist. I’m excited for him, he’s going to get his shot. But as long as I’m here, no one’s going to be champ.”