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Stipe Miocic says Daniel Cormier rematch more important to him than UFC title: ‘He owes me this one’

Stipe Miocic wants the UFC heavyweight title back. There’s no doubt about that. It’s been a borderline obsession for him since he dropped it to Cormier at UFC 226 last July.

However, at this point seven months after that bout, there’s one thing Miocic values even more than getting back the belt — just getting that rematch with Cormier.

“Oh, 100 percent,” Miocic told MMA Fighting. “It’s everything. Just because I know I’m the better fighter — I believe I’m the better fighter. In my heart.”

Miocic’s team dropped a five-minute video Monday, chronicling what the former champ has been up to since last July. He has surely been busy, raising his infant daughter Meelah with his wife Ryan. Meelah was born just a few weeks after UFC 226 and Miocic says the last few months as a father have changed him.

“I’m fighting for something,” Miocic said. “I’m fighting for her. It’s not just about me, my wife and doing what I love. I’m doing what I love, but now I’m doing it for an even better reason.”

Miocic, 36, trains just about every day, sometimes twice, in addition to the hours he spends with Meelah. On top of that, he has continued on with his job as a firefighter. The seemingly tireless Miocic said he worked a 24-hour shift Sunday.

“It’s my mindset,” Miocic said. “Always going forward, working hard. Nothing is ever given, it’s all earned.”

He is also extremely driven by getting that fight back with Cormier and winning back the title. Miocic defended the heavyweight gold three times between 2016 and 2018, a UFC record, before falling to Cormier by first-round knockout.

“I felt like I was winning the fight,” Miocic said. “I felt like I kind of got off track of what I was doing, not doing my usual and listening to the game plan. And just kind of overstepped what I needed to do and he caught me with a punch — a punch I didn’t see. I’ll say to this day, he doesn’t hit as hard as [Francis] Ngannou. It was just right on the button, right where it needed to be.

“It wasn’t like he was wiping the floor with me. I just knew I was the better fighter in there. And let me tell you something, next time it happens, next time we fight, you’ll see a different fighter. A whole new me. A lot has changed.”

Since Miocic dropped the belt last year, Cormier has defended it once against Derrick Lewis at UFC 230 in November and been talked about in potential fights with Brock Lesnar and Jon Jones. Miocic, who was regarded as perhaps the best UFC heavyweight of all time at this point last year, has mostly been out of the conversation.

“It definitely feels that way,” Miocic said. “Listen, that’s the world we live in. That’s what people want to see, what people want to hear. It’s all that media stuff.”

Well, Miocic (18-3) is ready to move himself into the forefront of that discussion. He won’t do it by talking trash in the press — that’s just not his style. Instead, Miocic wants his résumé to speak for itself. He believes Cormier owes him this rematch, since he granted Cormier, who was at the time the light heavyweight champion, the initial bout in the first place.

“He’s a gentleman like me,” Miocic said. “If the roles were reversed, I’d do the same. I’d give him the shot back. I wouldn’t sit around and say, ‘No no, we’re good, I’m gonna fight someone else.’ No, man.”

Cormier was supposed to retire in March, but that no longer seems likely. He has been sidelined with injury since the Lewis fight and the planned bout with Lesnar seems up in the air. The UFC pay-per-view docket seems to be full in March and May. That leaves the potential open for Cormier vs. Miocic 2 at UFC 236 in April, UFC 238 in May or UFC 239 in July if that’s the direction all sides decide to go in.

“We haven’t heard much,” Miocic said. “We’ll see what happens. We’re still working. We’re trying to iron stuff out, see what works.”

There’s no doubt that’s the direction Miocic wants to go in. He’s not necessarily holding out for Cormier, but he hasn’t competed since last July and in many ways has a one-track mind.

“My plan, of course, is to get that rematch,” Miocic said. “I’ve been saying that this whole time. We’ll see what happens. Just right now, I’m in the gym getting better every day, loving life, enjoying my daughter every day, watching her grow up.”

Miocic can’t control what happens in the future. He said he’d be “disappointed,” though, if he doesn’t get Cormier again before Cormier retires seemingly in the near future. The perfect 2019 for Miocic, he said, is pretty simple.

“Get my title back, fighting DC in a rematch and coming home with that belt back to Cleveland, which I will,” Miocic said.

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