According to oddsmakers, Stipe Miocic is a betting underdog heading into his heavyweight title defense against Francis Ngannou at UFC 220.
That’s just fine with Miocic. After all, Ngannou, with his six-fight finishing streak in the Octagon – including four inside of a round – is being touted as the next big thing in the UFC. Never mind that Miocic is the one on the verge of setting a promotional record for championship defenses in the always-tenuous heavyweight division.
“I’m the underdog, what do you expect? That’s what the betting line says, right? I’m pretty much the underdog in a lot of my fights,” Miocic said at a recent press conference to promote UFC 220. “I don’t mind being the underdog because I like shutting people up. People start betting against me and they lose a lot of money.”
Ngannou’s most recent knockout of Alistair Overeem at UFC 218 was arguably his best to date. The 2017 “Knockout of the Year” candidate wound up on highlight reels everywhere and is Exhibit A as to why the Frenchman known as “The Predator” might currently be the most intimidating fighter on the promotion’s roster.
When asked about the fear factor of facing someone like Ngannou, Miocic’s reactions ranged from incredulous to indifferent.
“No, that’s what I signed up for,” Miocic said. “I don’t want to be intimidated with another man.”
Eventually, however, as the same question arose in different forms, Miocic elected to go along with the narrative, though his facial expressions at the press conference conveyed a different emotion entirely, particularly when Ngannou weighed in on the topic.
“He’s really intimidated. He knows what gonna happen,” Ngannou said. “He knows the guy that he’s gonna fight. It’s gonna be the fight that he’s never had in his career.”
At that point, Miocic was no longer interested in trying to sway public opinion: “I guess so. Whatever he says. Sure. I’m intimidated. Awesome.”
The reality is that Miocic has already faced the likes of Junior dos Santos (twice), Fabricio Werdum, Overeem, Andrei Arlovski, Mark Hunt and Roy Nelson over the course of his UFC career. There is very little that Ngannou brings to the table that the Ohio native hasn’t already seen. Miocic also doesn’t mind that most of the pre-fight hype has been focused on his opponent and finding equivalents to his knockout power.
“Francis Ngannou has the world record for the most powerful punch. His punch is the equivalent to 96 horsepower, which is equal to getting hit by a Ford Escort going as fast as it can,” UFC President Dana White, in full carnival barker mode, said at the press conference. “It’s more powerful than a 12-pound sledgehammer getting swung full force overhead… Holy s—t.”
Again, Miocic was unfazed.
“I don’t care. I’m a Midwest dude. I don’t need all the hoopla,” Miocic said. “He deserves it. He’s a big, strong tough dude that hits hard…What kind of car is it? A Ford Escort as fast as it can go, that’s pretty powerful. I’m probably like a little bug or something. I don’t know. Good for him. Let him get all the hype he wants. I’m gonna do what I do and I’m gonna keep winning.”
The heavyweight champion acknowledges that the UFC might even be pulling for Ngannou to win at UFC 220, even as Miocic has crafted a five-fight finishing streak of his own. He plans on disappointing everyone ready to anoint Ngannou as the next “Baddest Man on the Planet.”
“I think everyone does [wants to see Ngannou win]. It ain’t gonna happen, I can tell you that,” Miocic said. “He can do it to someone else. It ain’t gonna happen to me. He knocked out Overeem pretty good. It’s a great knockout. That ain’t gonna happen on the 20th. Sorry, but it’s not gonna happen.”