At 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, Stipe Miocic is an imposing force in the UFC’s heavyweight division.  But between his part-time job, desire for a new dog and admission of an everyday fear, the big man is much more grounded than you might think based on his physique.

The native Croatian—now living in Cleveland—is on the verge of headlining UFC on Fuel TV 5 on Sept. 29 against Stefan Struve. The fight will be his first outside of U.S. soil, and he’s not shy about his fears of fighting in Europe.

“I don’t like flying,” admitted the undefeated fighter in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner.  “[At the same time] I’m excited and can’t wait. I’m going to the U.K. and we have great fans over there.”

Miocic (top) batters Shane Del Rosario with elbows (James Law/Heavy MMA)

Miocic’s rise through the heavyweight ranks has been meteoric. The fight with Struve will be just the tenth fight of his career and fourth inside the Octagon. However, eight of his nine wins have come by stoppage and after his complete destruction of Shane Del Rosario at UFC 146 in May, some have mentioned his name in title talk.

“I don’t know about that,” said Miocic with a laugh. “I’m just worried about the 29th. Whatever the UFC decides, I’ll be waiting for that phone call for who I fight next.”

The success Miocic has had after competing in MMA for less than three years should come as no surprise to those familiar with his athletic past. He was nationally ranked as a wrestler at Cleveland State and has a Golden Gloves championship on his resume. Yet, some of his biggest success came not in an Octagon, but on the diamond, where he received interest from Major League Baseball teams.

“[Unfortunately] nothing ever came of it,” Miocic said of his baseball career. “I definitely tried, but there are not a lot of guys that are 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds that can throw and hit very well. I didn’t get the luck of the draw on that one.”

While Miocic’s luck with America’s pastime may not have been up to his liking, he’s ecstatic at the opportunity to face Struve as the card’s top-billing.

“It’s fantastic,” declared Miocic. “When I found out about it, I was screaming and going crazy. It’s an amazing feeling, it’s awesome.”

When he steps into the Octagon against the towering 6-foot-11 Dutchman, he’ll be giving up not only seven inches in height, but also four inches in reach. Coupled with the fact that 16 of Struve’s 24 victories have come by way of submission, Miocic is going to have his hands (and other limbs) full.

“My coaches and I have a good game plan on what we’re going to do,” explained Miocic. “Hopefully I can go out there on the 29th, implement it, and come out with a win.”

Although Struve may have the edge in the submission department, Miocic’s wrestling and boxing background pose a tough test for nearly any opponent. So, which aspect of his attack does he think Struve should fear most?

Miocic (R) looks for a right hand (James Law/Heavy MMA)

“That’s a good question,” he said with a chuckle. “I don’t know to be honest. You have to worry about everything. At least that’s what I do when I fight.”

With the fight against Struve fast approaching, Miocic has still managed to add a few items to his to-do list while juggling two part-time firefighter positions in between his busy training schedule. Near the top of the list is meeting one of his idols, Pride legend and fellow Croatian Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.

“I’ve never met him, but I’d love to,” said the heavyweight. “I’m sure I could learn a lot from him and I’d love to pick his brain about a few things.”

Though an encounter with one of the sport’s pioneers is on his agenda, Miocic has a much more attainable goal on his calendar when he’s finished with his upcoming bout. One that involves a new four-legged friend.

“[Right now] all I am worried about is the 29th,” he said. “I’m going to go out there, get a win, come home and get my dog.”

With an impressive showing in the main event, Miocic’s next immediate goal may have a lot less fur and a lot more gold. But don’t expect him to give up his firefighter position, or fear of flying, even if there’s a title involved.

Stipe would like to thank his family, his friends, his fans (both stateside and in Croatia), his team at Strong Style, his coaches: Marcus, Joe, Paulo and strength coach Dave Morgan, and his sponsors: Hayabusa, Muscle Pharm, Fear the Fighter, Masters of Disaster, Topps Trading Cards, Tim Lally Chevrolet, Corinthians Corsos, John P. Lennon and Murphy’s Ale House. Follow him on Twitter: @smiocic

Top Photo: Stipe Miocic (James Law/Heavy MMA)

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