This week, Stipe Miocic has tunnel vision.
He doesn’t want to think about Jon Jones, the longtime UFC light heavyweight champion who’s on deck to challenge for the heavyweight crown at long last. He’s not interested in discussing all the rising contenders frothing at the mouth at the chance to take Miocic’s title. Not when he’s got Francis Ngannou in the way for the second time.
Miocic (20-3, 15 finishes) will worry about all that after he takes care of business in Saturday’s UFC 260 pay-per-view headliner at UFC Apex in Las Vegas. This will be the eighth consecutive heavyweight title fight for the champion, who has twice in a row earned retribution for his lone loss to Daniel Cormier in that span.
The Cormier trilogy has been Miocic’s only action since earning a lopsided decision against Ngannou (15-3, 15 finishes) when they first met on Jan. 20, 2018. The last time he competed against anyone but these two men came nearly four years ago, when he TKO’d former champ Junior dos Santos in May 2017 to avenge another of his three professional defeats.
But Miocic, who doubles as a firefighter in Valley View, Ohio, carries his athletic career with his lunch-pail mentality. As such, he couldn’t care less with whom he’s locked in a cage. He’s got a job to do regardless: win and earn the right to still be called “Champ” — a title he says he’s fond of bearing.
“I don’t care if it’s pretty, if it’s not pretty, if it’s a drag-out brawl,” Miocic told The Post over the phone on Tuesday. “Listen, I’m gonna go in there, I’m gonna do my job and get the win, by any means necessary.”
Just about everyone in MMA circles loves a good ol’ GOAT debate, and Miocic’s resume is starting to make it a lot easier to include him in the discussion of heavyweight greats. He already holds the UFC record for successful heavyweight title defenses (four) and would on Saturday surpass Hall of Famer Randy Couture with a seventh victory in a UFC title fight.
That’s all well and good, but such things are not what the champ concerns himself with too much. All he really wants is to be able to one day tell his kids — two-year-old daughter Meelah plus a baby boy he and wife Ryan are expecting in August — about his accomplishments.
“[I want to] tell them what I did for a living and show them videos and stuff, and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, wow,’ ” Miocic said. “I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, I did pretty cool stuff too. I’m not a weirdo or a loser.’ ”
Miocic, who turns 39 in August, has been a pro for 11 years now and will celebrate the 10th anniversary of his octagon debut in October. Although 40 is less than a year-and-a-half away, heavyweights have had a much longer shelf life in this sport — Couture’s last victory in a title fight came at age 44.
The fact is that Miocic isn’t looking for an exit while he’s still enjoying what he does.
“[I’ll keep fighting] as long as I’m having fun,” Miocic said. “I’m having fun, so nothing’s gonna change.”
Beyond Jones, plenty of potential fresh challengers could await Miocic if he can hold onto his belt. France’s Ciryl Gane, Russia’s Alexander Volkov, Philadelphia’s Chris Daukaus and England’s Tom Aspinall all range from 27 to 32 years old, are coming off victories this year and can be found among the top 15 of the UFC”s promotional rankings. They’re part of a new wave of big men who could find their way into the title picture sooner rather than later.
Again, Miocic isn’t concerned with any individual not named Francis Ngannou until after this weekend, but he’s pleased with the direction and growth of his competition.
“It’s getting better. There’s no question,” Miocic said. “There’s a lot of tough guys, and there’s a lot of guys who are gonna be gunning for me. … I’m happy the division’s getting bigger and stronger and bringing more life to this division.
“But I’m just worried about Saturday. That’s all I care about.”