Updated: May 5, 2022
On Saturday May 14, 2016 in Curitiba, Brazil, Stipe Miocic knocked out then UFC Heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum in Round 1 of the main event for UFC 198. The win by Miocic meant a few things. First, it meant that Miocic became the new undisputed UFC Heavyweight champion. Second, it broke the championship drought for the city of Cleveland. Third, it meant that the octagon would be welcomed to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse “formally known as Quicken Loans Arena (The Q)”.
The city of Cleveland was title town in 2016 as the city captured not one, not two, but three championships that year! Many people argue that it should’ve been four had the Guardians “formally known as the Indians” not suffered some serious and unfortunate injuries. Interestingly though, the Cavs’ championship against the Golden State Warriors is the one that’s acknowledged for breaking the championship drought in Cleveland. The other two were the Cleveland Monsters Calder Cup and of course Stipe's championship.
I respectfully disagree with this sentiment though. Although the UFC boils down to two people stepping into the cage and fighting, it’s still a team sport. Why? The person who is fighting has many different coaches who are helping them prepare for their opponent. In addition to the coaches, the fighter also has training partners who do their best to mimic what their opponent is going to do so that the fighter can be prepared. Even when the fight is actually happening, you see the coaches in each corner telling their fighters what changes they should make in order to get the win. Thus, the UFC is more of team sport than it gets credit for. That’s why I stand by my opinion that Stipe Miocic winning the Heavyweight championship at UFC 198 broke the championship drought for Cleveland.
In addition to bringing home the first of three championships in 2016, Stipe’s win against Werdum did something else. It meant that the UFC Octagon would be coming to Cleveland, Ohio for the first time ever. On September 10, 2016, the octagon was at Quicken Loans Arena for UFC 203. In the main event, Stipe would be defending his Heavyweight title for the first time against the formidable Alistair Overeem.
As the card went on, “The Q” became more filled and got louder and louder as it got closer to the main event. When it was time for Stipe’s fight, I didn’t see one empty seat anywhere. I should know as I was in attendance for UFC 203. The crowd was also making a ton of noise in support of Stipe. Although he is a hometown guy, I still think this shows that Cleveland supports the UFC. Thus, Dana White should bring the octagon back to Cleveland for a UFC Fight Night or a PPV.
Cleveland is such a passionate and diehard sports town that it wouldn’t matter who is in the main event or what the rest of main card and prelims look like. When the city is given the spotlight, such as the 2021 NFL Draft, we show up and show out. If you ever want to hear an arena more deafening, you would hard pressed to find anywhere as electric as it was in Cleveland that night.