Anticipation is high among fighters and fans ahead of UFC 220: Miocic vs. Ngannou, with confidence in no short supply for the fighters featured in the evening’s main and co-main events.
Self-assurance is expected from prize fighters, but the four men topping this auspicious event seem to surpass even that standardized expectation.
Perhaps the most assured fighter of them all is UFC heavyweight championship challenger Francis Ngannou, who insinuated Miocic was only holding the belt in his absence.
“He was interim champion because I wasn’t there,” Ngannou said during a media conference call Thursday afternoon. “I’m the real champion for this division. I’m the one who will change the heavyweight division.”
Ngannou spoke slowly and deliberately, choosing his words economically as he does his strikes in the cage.
“I know what Stipe is ever to do,” he said. “Almost everyone knows what Stipe is always to do, but the scary thing is this: No one doesn’t know what I am able to do. I go there for one minute, I win the fight. They don’t know what I can do. That is why I am confident. I am confident because I can see the limit of Stipe. But when you see something different from Ngannou, you’re gonna be like, ‘Wow.’”
For his part, Miocic seemed unfazed by Ngannou’s unerring self-assurance. When asked about the challenger’s oft-lauded power, the champion said he gave it little thought.
“It’s the heavyweight division; everyone hits hard,” he said. “He’s a tough guy, but he hasn’t seen anything like me yet.”
Miocic, short and to the point with his impression of the challenger, seemed to shrug at the suggestion of any pressure.
“I’m going to prove the point, so I don’t care,” he said.
At one point, light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier spoke up in support of Miocic, saying the the heavyweight champion, who with a win over Ngannou would break the record for heavyweight title defenses, was more openly confident behind the scenes.
“This is a man who truly believes he’s the baddest man on the planet,” Cormier said. “I know that, even though Stipe doesn’t say it, that Stipe feels the exact same way [as Ngannou], because he said it to me. Right before I left, Stipe said, ‘They can put King Kong in there, and I would beat him to be the most successful heavyweight champ of all time. He kind of got the toughest situation, and I don’t believe he would have it any other way. That leads me to believe this is going to be a barnburner between him and Francis.”
As for his own challenger, Cormier said he was not looking past Volkan Oezdemir.
“I respect him enough to focus entirely on him,” he said. “I don’t worry too much about Jones right now.”
Cormier also said he wasn’t worried about his opponent’s punching power.
“This game is not just about punching hard,” he said. “When a person is not on the level, they get exposed quickly.”
Oezdemir, who in 2017 rose from an unranked UFC newcomer to the No. 2-ranked fighter in his division and the next challenger to the light heavyweight throne, said all he wants is for Cormier to bring his best game into the cage with him on fight night.
“The difference is, I’m the new level,” he said.
UFC 220 will take place January 20th at the TD Garden Arena in Boston, Massachusetts.
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