UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic is set to go up against one of the toughest challenges to date when he steps into the Octagon to defend his title against knockout artist Francis Ngannou at UFC 220.
The champion is coming into this bout having won five consecutive fights by knocking his opponents out. However, his opponent is no stranger to doing the same.
With his quick rise to the top of the division, many fight fans and media reporters including UFC President Dana White believe that Ngannou is the next potential superstar of the division.
“I’m excited, man,” Miocic said Wednesday on the Joe Rogan Experience (transcript courtesy of MMA Fighting). “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.’”
“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.”
UFC 220 is set to take place on Saturday, January 20, 2018, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The main card will air on pay-per-view while the preliminary card will air on FOX Sports 1 and the promotion’s streaming service, UFC Fight Pass.
“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.”
“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 officially earned the title shot after his latest bout when he picked up a first-round knockout of Alistair Overeem that left the veteran unconscious on the canvas for several minutes at UFC 218.
Miocic also defeated Overeem when he scored a first-round knockout over the longtime MMA star last year at UFC 203.
“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].”
“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.”