UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic can see clearly again, but he’s not quite ready to eye his next title defense just yet.
The Ohio native, who was named Pro Athlete of the Year at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards this week, revealed after the ceremony that he’s finally been cleared to return to action after a lengthy layoff due to an injury sustained in his title fight win over Daniel Cormier this past August.
Miocic suffered damage to his retina after dealing with inadvertent eye pokes, which was a similar issue he raised after his first fight with Cormier in 2018. The second time around, Miocic survived the eye injury to score a late knockout against the former two-time Olympian to reclaim the UFC heavyweight title.
Unfortunately afterwards, Miocic was forced to undergo a procedure to repair the damage done and he’s been relegated to the sidelines ever since.
“Better. A lot better. It’s healed up,” Miocic said when speaking to reporters after the event. “I’m taking my time with it because I’m 37, I don’t want to injure it again or something.
“I want to be able to see out of both eyes when I get older so that’s all I really care about right now. I love fighting but my health’s more important.”
When it comes to his next fight, Miocic says it’s a little premature to start looking at dates because he’s just now getting back into the gym after largely taking off the past five months since his win over Cormier in their rematch.
“No [timeline], not right now,” Miocic said. “I just got cleared so take my time getting back in the swing of things. We’ll figure it out. We’ll see what happens.”
UFC president Dana White has said he wants to see Miocic fight Cormier in a trilogy once he’s ready to compete again but no contracts have been offered or signed.
In fact, Miocic says he’s ready for whatever challenge the UFC throws at him — even if that means a rematch with Francis Ngannou after sounding defeating him in their first meeting back in 2018.
“Whoever they want me to fight. Honestly, I don’t really care,” Miocic said. “I’ll put on a clinic on Ngannou again, too, it doesn’t matter to me.”
With his clearance coming “about a week ago,” Miocic is just now starting to get back into training again while being cautious about his eye to ensure further damage isn’t inflicted.
“I’ve been trying to spar a little bit. It’s been rough cause I’ve not sparred in over five months. The guys have been taking it out on me,” Miocic said with a smile. “It’s not been fun so I’m thinking about that in the back of my mind so when I get in better shape, take them out.”