LOS ANGELES -- When last we saw Stipe Miocic, the UFC heavyweight champion wasn’t a happy man.
Miocic became the first fighter in UFC history to successfully defend the 265-pound title three consecutive times when he scored a one-sided victory over Francis Ngannou at UFC 220 in Boston in January.
But the entire buildup of the fight seemed to revolve around Ngannou’s inevitable rise to the championship. So after Miocic handily dispatched of Ngannou to retain his belt, he made a statement by yanking away the title from UFC president Dana White so that Miocic’s coach could place the belt around his waist instead.
Six months later, Miocic is in a very different place. When the Ohio native steps into the cage against light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier in the main event of Saturday night’s UFC 226 in Las Vegas, he’ll do so content with his place in the UFC pecking order and happier than he’s ever been with his paycheck.
“Dana and I, we talked that stuff out and it worked out great,” Miocic told reporters Monday. When asked if the Cormier fight represents the biggest payday of his career, he added “100 percent.”
Those aren’t just empty words, as the results speak for themselves. While not saying what he’ll get paid for UFC 226, Miocic has since been featured as a coach opposite Cormier on The Ultimate Fighter 27, and he appeared in a well-received ad by official UFC sponsor Modelo which received big play on network television during the NBA and NHL playoffs.
Miocic says that in hindsight, he understands why it took some time for the UFC to come around on giving him a bigger promotional push, and that he’s willing to let bygones be bygones.
“A lot has changed,” Miocic said. “I think it had a lot to do with the change in the company too, they were stuck in their transition. I’m just, I was stuck when they sold the company, they were looking for what’s good for them, but I understand that. They spent a lot of money, they spent four billion dollars it’s not like ‘ahh, sure guys.’ it’s a little bit different than that. They made it right and it was all good.”
One thing Miocic doesn’t have on his near-term agenda, though, is a fight a Madison Square Garden. While most fighters practically trip over themselves looking to fight in one of the sport’s most hallowed halls, Miocic simply sees New York as a place that will take a big bite out of his check with taxes. So regardless of what goes down at UFC 226, he’s not terribly interested in being a part of the UFC’s November NYC card.
“A lot of taxes,” Miocic said. “Lots of taxes.”