CLEVELAND -- Stipe Miocic knows a thing or two about delivering a knockout punch. As intimidating and fierce as the newly-crowned UFC heavyweight champion is in the octagon, though, stepping into a batting cage at a Major League stadium is a whole different animal."They're not even swinging hard, and they
CLEVELAND -- Stipe Miocic knows a thing or two about delivering a knockout punch. As intimidating and fierce as the newly-crowned UFC heavyweight champion is in the octagon, though, stepping into a batting cage at a Major League stadium is a whole different animal.
"They're not even swinging hard, and they crush them out of the park," Miocic said with a laugh. "I'm swinging as hard as I can, and I barely get it out of the infield."
Miocic needed just one round to knock out Fabricio Werdum on Saturday night to claim the UFC heavyweight crown. Before Tuesday's game against the Reds, the imposing fighter required a handful of rounds to finally clear the 19-foot wall in left field at Progressive Field.
On his final swing of batting practice, Miocic pulled a pitch from bench coach Brad Mills high over left field. As the ball sailed over the outfield, pitcher Joba Chamberlain lifted his arms into the air in celebration. Once the ball crashed just over the wall, there were cheers from around the field, as Miocic's good friend, catcher Yan Gomes, filmed it all with his phone.
After he stepped out of the cage, Miocic pumped his left fist and let out a primal shout.
"That was awesome," Miocic said.
Miocic hails from Northeast Ohio and currently lives in the Cleveland suburb of Parma. He played baseball at Eastlake North High School, and at Cleveland State University, before venturing into ultimate fighting. During batting practice, Reds first baseman Joey Votto walked over and asked Miocic what position he played during his baseball days.
"I played bench," Miocic quipped.
Miocic and Gomes became friends back in 2014, when Miocic was at an Indians game as part of a UFC promotional tour. A native of Brazil, Gomes headed to the field during that visit to meet Miocic. The catcher was wearing a Brazil shirt, and Miocic was slated to fight a Brazilian at the time.
"I go out there in my Brazil shirt," said Gomes, rolling his eyes at the memory. "We took pictures together, we talked and next thing you know, he realized I had the Brazil shirt and he was kind of threatening me out there. We became good friends."
Over the past few years, Gomes has headed to the gym with Miocic to watch him train for fights. Miocic, meanwhile, has kept an eye on Indians games to follow his friend. On Saturday night, when Miocic fought Werdum for the UFC heavyweight belt in Brazil, Gomes was on the edge of his seat.
"When he won, I was super excited for him," Gomes said. "My wife actually took a video of me when I was celebrating. I'm not very excited about how I sound when I'm that excited."
Gomes then received a text from Miocic on Sunday morning.
"He's like, 'Morning brother. What's the word?'" Gomes said with a laugh. "I was like, 'What's the word, man?' It's like, what the heck? I was like, 'Dude, you're the champ!' That just shows the kind of guy that he is. Watching his fight, it was unbelievable seeing one of your best friends do everything [he set out to do]."
Now, Gomes has watched his good friend launch a home run in Cleveland.
"It was just cool to hang out with these guys and let me be part of this," Miocic said. "They're amazing guys. They're awesome."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.