Heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic on the verge of UFC history

There have been 19 heavyweight champions in the UFC history and only five of them have been able to successfully defend the belt twice.

None have made it any further.

Stipe Miocic joined that group of five with a first-round knockout of Junior dos Santos in the main event of UFC 211 on Saturday night in Dallas.

Should he be able to break down the wall and set the record with a third title defense in his next fight, Miocic will force himself into the conversation as one of the best heavyweights to ever compete in the UFC.

He’s not really the type to get caught up in the significance of such debates.

“If I keep winning, I’ll make history,” Miocic said early Sunday morning at American Airlines Center. “But I really don’t care. I just like winning. It’s fun. I especially like being called champ.”

He has been bestowed with that moniker for exactly a year. Miocic won the belt with a first-round knockout of Fabricio Werdum on May 14, 2016. He defended it with a first-round knockout win over Alistair Overeem in September and then made quick work of former champ dos Santos on Saturday to avenge a 2014 loss.

When he finally spoke to the media, it was after midnight. Miocic noted that made his title reign exactly one year old. His three title fights in that time lasted a total of 9:36.

“I think everyone wants that kind of run,” Miocic said. “These are great nights. I don’t care because I’m always in shape to go the whole five rounds, but of course first-round knockouts are nice. They’re real nice.”

UFC president Dana White has certainly taken notice. He said should Stipe win his next fight, he would have to be in the conversation as the best heavyweight to compete in the UFC.

“It would be tough to say he’s not after defending the title three times,” White said. “If he gets beyond that, he’s an amazing Hall of Famer, I guess.

“He’s really come into his own. He’s an unbelievable fighter that has gone on a tear and knocked out everybody, including the last guy who beat him. It’s remarkable.”

As for who the record-breaking opportunity will come against, the picture is quite cloudy. Werdum and Overeem will fight in July and the winner will be in the mix. Former champ Cain Velasquez is recovering from an injury and is a possibility, along with rising superstar Francis Ngannou, who may be just a win away from contention.

Miocic has more pressing concerns. He still works as a firefighter in his native Cleveland and will return to work on Thursday.

He has no plans of giving up his day job and cryptically mentioned on several occasions that he has some issues to address with the UFC before his next fight.

“There’s a lot of things I have to look into,” he said. “We’ll leave it at that.”

When pressed on several occasions, Miocic declined to elaborate.

The 34-year-old former college baseball player is 17-2 in his career with 13 knockouts.

Greener pastures

Former UFC light heavyweight contender Anthony Johnson finally broke his silence about his reasons for unexpectedly retiring following his championship loss to Daniel Cormier at UFC 210 in Buffalo, New York, last month.

Johnson indicated at the time he planned to pursue options outside of fighting that he believed could be lucrative.

“My friend Paul is in cannabis and we’re opening up a facility,” Johnson said on former pro wrestler Booker T’s podcast. “It’s for medical uses. We’re getting in that way. We’ve got some good things going on.

“It’s already big. We’re just waiting on that law to pass and whenever it passes, we’re golden. We’re playing our cards right. We’re playing by the books so that way there is no issues. We’re good to go.”

Johnson, 33, said the business opportunity wasn’t the sole reason he chose to walk away from fighting at the top of his game.

“My health, man,” Johnson explained. “You hear about CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and all this other stuff. Head injuries. You’re harming your body playing football and stuff like that, but this stuff can happen just as fast in mixed martial arts as any other sport, because we’re constantly beating on each other.

”I love myself, you know what I’m saying? A lot of guys don’t think about that.”

Silva to be enshrined

UFC officials announced Saturday former matchmaker Joe Silva will be inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame in July.

Silva began working in the UFC in 1995 and was named director of talent relations and chief matchmaker in 2001 when the promotion was purchased by Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, along with Dana White.

The induction ceremony will take place during International Fight Week in Las Vegas, which runs from July 5-9.

More MMA: Follow all of our MMA and UFC coverage online at CoveringTheCage.com and @CoveringTheCage on Twitter.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @adamhilllvrj on Twitter.

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