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‘Disrespected’ Stipe Miocic feels UFC wants Francis Ngannou to beat him

Stipe Miocic is on the precipice of UFC history.

With a victory over Francis Ngannou on Jan. 20 in Boston at UFC 220, he’ll become the first fighter in company history to defend the UFC heavyweight title three consecutive times.

That’s a mark some of the greatest heavyweights in MMA history, from Randy Couture to Cain Velasquez, haven’t been able to crack.

But if you’ve been following the UFC 220 hype on the company’s end, it’s been Ngannou, the challenger, who has received the bulk of the promotional push. And that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the champion.

On Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, when asked whether he feels the UFC wants Ngannou to win their main event bout, the usually unflappable Miocic answered vigorously in the affirmative.

“Obviously, for sure,” Miocic said. “Listen, I feel a little bit disrespected, but I’m not going to dwell on it.”

The UFC created a well-received promo clip for the bout which focuses on Ngannou’s vicious knockout of Alistair Overeem at UFC 218, a finish which earned MMA Fighting’s 2017 Knockout of the Year honors. Miocic acknowledges the company needs to come up with some sort of reason to hype the fight, since he’s not one to engage in phony trash talk.

“He’s got more hype on him I guess,” Miocic said. “The guy hits super hard. We’re making a big thing about it. I’ve fought some good guys, you know? That’s how we are. I’m not much of a trash talker I just like to fight, that’s what I do.”

If anything, the champ believes the buildup, with its emphasis on Ngannou as the next big star, shifts all the pressure heading into Boston on the upstart challenger.

“All the pressure is on him, honestly. … The best guys he’s faced, I knocked them out two years ago. So, whatever.”

Last year, Miocic openly complained about his contract with the UFC, noting that Overeem was paid more to challenge him (and lose via knockout) at UFC 203 than Miocic made to defend the belt. The champ, who has not fought since his finish of former titleholder Junior dos Santos at UFC 211, says his contract situation has been addressed, but didn’t sound like he wanted to speak much further on the subject.

“I won’t dwell on that,” Miocic said. “They took care of it. They did take care of it. Yeah, next question.”

So that brings us back to the upcoming Ngannou fight. Much of the intrigue in the bout lies in the unknown: We don’t know how Ngannou fares in deep waters, nor do we know much about what he can do on the ground, because Ngannou has usually finished his foes before the fight can get there.

“I saw the one submission he had against Anthony Hamilton, the Kimura or whatever, I saw that, but I haven’t really seen any ground work,” Miocic said. “I haven’t really watched, I’ve seen that fight and Andrei Arlovski’s fight are what I’ve seen watching him fight.”

Beyond that, Miocic, who is taking two weeks of from his Cleveland-area job as a firefighter to take the Ngannou fight, isn’t going to make a prediction on what will go down when the duo meet underneath the 23 combined NBA and NHL championship banners at TD Garden.

“He definitely has the hype behind him,” Miocic said. “He definitely has the punching power behind him. So, we’ll see on January 20 how things go.”

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