How Stipe Miocic juggles his MMA career with working as a firefighter

Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports

It is inconceivable at the highest level of professional sport for a successful athlete to be on top of his or her game while also holding down a 9-to-5 job.

Imagine Tom Brady leaving a New England Patriots’ practice to go punch a time clock. When Jordan Spieth isn’t playing golf, he’s practicing it. He’s certainly not earning a few extra bucks at the local big box store.

But part of the charm of UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic is that he bucks that trend. He’s among the best fighters in the world – he’s fifth in the UFC’s pound-for-pound list after his win last week at UFC 211 over Junior dos Santos – and yet he still has a full-time job.

He’s a fireman, and he has no plans to quit.

“I love helping people,” he says.

Miocic proceeds to tell a story that is jaw-dropping, but is part of the everyday fabric of life for a fireman. On one of his calls, before he had a year under his belt, Miocic saved a woman’s life.

He recounted the story in a matter-of-fact tone, as if it were just another day saving someone’s life.

“When I started, about eight months in, a lady went out and we brought her back to life,” he said.

Heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic beat Junior dos Santos at UFC 211. (Getty)
Heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic beat Junior dos Santos at UFC 211. (Getty)

He said this in response to how he handles the devastation he sees on a regular basis. Firemen are absolutely essential and play a critical role in our society, but they often see things that no one ever wants to see: families, and their pets, who have lost their lives in a blaze; survivors overcome with grief at the tragedy that’s engulfed them.

It’s a lot to handle, but he takes pride in being able to have the opportunity to help someone, Miocic said.

“You never really know what is going to happen in life from one minute to the next,” he said. “And when some of the bad stuff comes up, you have to black it out, control your emotions and be there for them. They’re dealing with something that a lot of times is so overwhelming, you just need to be supportive and let them know you’re there to help and that you care.”

He spoke of saving the woman’s life as just part of the job, and described doing CPR, providing oxygen and “shocking her.”

But when pressed, he concedes it’s something that keeps him going back. It’s why, no matter how successful he becomes as a fighter, he has no plans to quit.

He’s quickly gaining stature and gathering more fans, but it’s not by trash talking or threatening violence. He’s an Everyman, a guy you’d love to run into at the nearest watering hole, to talk about the big game and share a few laughs.

“Everyone has their shtick and I have mine,” he said. “I think my shtick is, I’m a good dude, I have a great personality, I love life and I love having fun. I think people are catching on to that.”

It doesn’t hurt, though, that he’s already being called the best heavyweight in UFC history, even though he’s still young in his career.

His full-time job clearly hasn’t hurt his development as a fighter, as his rematch last week with dos Santos put his improvement front and center.

Stipe Miocic works as a firefighter when he’s not training for his next MMA fight. (Getty)
Stipe Miocic works as a firefighter when he’s not training for his next MMA fight. (Getty)

In their first match, in 2014, dos Santos won a close decision in a compelling fight. In the rematch at UFC 211, it was no-contest as Miocic walked him down and knocked him out. Miocic’s body language and his style were vastly different.

It was borne from confidence he gained in the gym. Between his full-time job, his UFC training and commitments outside of the cage, he doesn’t have a lot of free time. He’s not complaining, though.

He’s found a way to make what would be an untenable situation for most athletes work, and he’s not only surviving, he’s thriving.

“Stipe’s awesome, man,” UFC president Dana White said after his win over dos Santos.

“JDS is an awesome fighter and really is one of the toughest guys in the world,” Miocic said. “My first time fighting him, it was my first big main event and I hadn’t been through that. There was a lot I didn’t know what to expect. But after that fight, my confidence got better and, honestly, everything got better.

“Mostly, it was my confidence getting better, but I have the best coaches in the world and they’ve developed me and brought me along. In that second fight, [dos Santos] got a lot better, but I was tremendously better. And that’s the path I want to stay on.”

So, he’ll focus on helping renovate his kitchen in the next few weeks, get back to fighting fires and working in the gym.

He’ll set a division record for most consecutive successful defenses with a win in his next outing, but he’s not into talking much about that now.

“I like being the champion and obviously, I want to keep this belt and keeping defending it, day by day and fight by fight,” he said. “But I don’t want to put a number or anything on it. When this is all over, I might look back on it and feel a certain way, but right now while I’m in the middle of it, I just want to keep listening to my coaches, get better every day and go out there and do my thing.”

He’s different than the rest in that regard.

Doing his thing can mean knocking out the baddest men alive, as he’s repeatedly done, or it can be saving someone’s life.

For Miocic, each is all in a day’s (or night’s) work.

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