In the modern sports era, at times it can be hard to find a sports “hero”. With free agency, trades and in some cases, a lack of loyalty, players don’t always stick around. We buy a jersey, and cheer them on only to watch them move on.
In Cleveland, we have watched some of the biggest names in sports leave for multiple reasons. Just in recent years, LeBron James left, Kyrie Irving and Joe Haden are gone now, and all 3 were under different circumstances. We have even seen our team leave when the Browns moved to Baltimore, and became the Ravens. On one hand, you have a man who made the single greatest shot in Cavaliers history, then decide he’s had enough, and needed a change. As a result, Kyrie was traded to our conference rivals, the Celtics. On the other had, you have an organization who decided to make a change, when the Browns decided to move on, and cut fan favorite, Joe Haden. Joe then signed with, of all teams, our bitter rivals, the Steelers. LeBron wanted rings and glory, and while I don’t know all of the behind the scenes details, he ultimately “took his talents to south beach”. Fortunately for Cleveland, he returned, and along with Kyrie, Kevin Love and others, delivered the long awaited championship back to Cleveland in one of the big 3 major sports.
But there are other athletes here in Cleveland that we can embrace. Athletes who hold their position in the city with honor, and continue to promote Cleveland whenever they get the chance. One in particular, can’t sign away in free agency, they will never get traded and can be loved throughout their entire career; that is the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight Champion of the world, Stipe Miocic. Stipe actually delivered a championship back to the city of Cleveland before the Cavaliers did. But, the UFC is often times considered a “fringe” sport, and it is not considered to be one of the major sports organizations. The UFC is the most dominant brand in combat sports, it can be brutal at times, and can be difficult to watch two opponents literally beat each other. It’s not a team sport, and nobody wears a team name, or the name of their city across their chest, but the fighters are proud of where they came from, especially Miocic. Stipe was born and raised in northeast Ohio, and continues to represent his beloved home town. Stipe has chosen to live here, train here, and he works here in northeast Ohio.
Now I am biased, I will admit that. I personally know Stipe and personally think very highly of him. Even though he is a friend of mine, I can separate myself enough to see him objectively. With that being said, I know first hand that Stipe loves this city, good and bad. He looks at his Croatian heritage, and being from Cleveland as a badge of honor. He supports great local charities and oh yeah, he saves lives as a firefighter. That’s right, he also works as a public servant helping people in emergency situations in between training to be the “baddest man on the planet”. It’s funny because if you have the pleasure to meet Stipe, you would probably have a hard time seeing him as such a powerful fighter. Outside of the cage, he is a very lighthearted and a funny guy to be around. He is often joking around, and trying to put a smile on everyone’s face. But, when he is inside of that octagon, the switch flips and he becomes one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world.
Stipe is also beloved by people from all over the globe, and highly respected by his fellow competitors, with good reason. He’s not overly flashy, or egocentric and has an amazing amount respect and commitment to the sport. He’s just a blue collar guy who goes to work; whether it’s at the gym, training, or at the firehouse, ready to respond to an emergency. Stipe is at the top of his sport, as the Heavyweight Champion of the world. He’s the type of athlete everyone can love. He represents himself and his city with class and pride.
While I love my teams from Cleveland, team Miocic is one of the best. So if you or your friends or your kids are looking to find someone to cheer for, someone who won’t leave in free agency, who won’t be traded, and who will always represent our home town well, you don’t have to look very far.