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UFC 241: Stipe Miocic welcomes underdog mentality ahead of rematch with Daniel Cormier

Stipe Miocic, right, fights Daniel Cormier in a

Stipe Miocic, right, fights Daniel Cormier in a heavyweight title mixed martial arts bout at UFC 226, Saturday, July 7, 2018, in Las Vegas. Photo Credit: AP/John Locher

Stipe Miocic has not stepped into the octagon since his reign as one of the UFC’s greatest heavyweight champions ended over a year ago.

So, what’s he been up to since his first loss in four years?

“Just enjoying life.”

Miocic will run back a fight he felt he was winning when he faces Daniel Cormier for the heavyweight title at UFC 241 on Saturday at Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

Despite falling to Cormier via first-round knockout, ending his tenure as champion after a record three title defenses, Miocic has stayed positive in the months following, turning his energy to his growing family as he plots a return to heavyweight glory.

“I mean, it sucks not being champ anymore. But honestly, at the end of the day, that's not what it's about,” Miocic said. “It's about raising my daughter and my family and making sure she's taken care of and my wife's taken care of, and making sure that she becomes the best person she can be.”

Miocic (18-3) had not been finished since his first career loss to Stefan Struve in 2012, but a Cormier punch changed that last July.

“He caught me with an overhand right,” Miocic said. “I felt like I was winning the fight. I felt comfortable, I felt good, I felt like I was dictating the pace, it just didn't go my way.”

Miocic didn’t have much time to dwell on the loss. Shortly after returning to his home in Ohio, his wife, Ryan, gave birth to their first child, Meelah.

“It was actually a perfect storm,” he said. “Her coming two weeks after the fight, I didn't think about it as much because I was worried about her.”

On top of the welcome distraction at home, Miocic said he was buoyed by the support of his hometown following the loss. A lifelong resident of Cleveland, he said nothing changed when he returned as a former champion.

“I’m very lucky I’m from that city,” Miocic said. “They still call me champ, it’s cool man. Cleveland is sick, I love everything about the city. I think it’s just the people there. It’s the mentality, it’s a Midwest thing. They take pride in everything they do. Nothing’s ever given, it’s always earned.”

Miocic is keeping his Cleveland roots strong. In the midst of his fight camp, Miocic and his family moved to a new home across town, which he admitted raised a few eyebrows. But even with a busy home life, Miocic is confident this time around. Despite being the betting underdog, he believes he can reimplement the game plan that worked early in the fight before Cormier’s knockout blow.

“People are saying it’s going to go the same way, he’s going to win with one punch,” Miocic said. “I was pushing the pace, he was literally running away from me at times against the cage. I put him down. OK, make the betting odds, awesome. They’re going to lose a lot of [expletive] money.”

Plus, Miocic has a new purpose in the fight game ahead of the rematch.

“I want to show my daughter that no matter if you fall down, you get back up and keep going forward. I want to show her that her dad was something.”

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