The word "championship" isn't a word that gets thrown around a lot in Cleveland. The last time Cleveland held a championship in ANYTHING was back in 1948 when the Cleveland Indians won the World Series (the Browns won the championship in 1964, but it was the pre-Super Bowl era). The Cleveland Cavaliers came close by reaching the NBA finals in 2007, but ultimately lost to the San Antonio Spurs.
So needless to say, it's been a while since sports fans in Cleveland have had anything to celebrate. At least until now.
Saturday night's UFC 198 showcased a headlining match-up between current UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum and underdog contender Stipe Miocic, who just so happens to be a Northeast Ohio native.
Miocic stunned the Brazilian crowd by knocking out Werdum in one punch in the first round. Afterwards, Miocic shouted "Cleveland, this is for you!"
Cleveland was, up until Saturday, the city with the longest active championship drought of any city with three sports teams or more. A streak that has now been broken by Miocic, who responded to reporters with a hint of modesty in his post-fight interview. (via MMA Junkie.)
"You know, I didn’t believe I carried the weight (of changing Cleveland’s fortunes). I was going to go out there and do my job. Fabricio is a super tough guy; he was the champion for a reason. Tonight on (ESPN’s sports documentary series) ’30 for 30′ they had ‘Believeland.’ It was a documentary about how Cleveland sports don’t win championships. I put an end to it. I had to stop the curse for us and it went well tonight.”
It was that modesty that continued when he returned home early this morning. "I'm a fighter," Miocic told media when he landed in Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. "That's what I do. I'm from Cleveland. We're fighters here. It's what we do."
While fans in Brazil weren't too thrilled, fans in Cleveland couldn't be happier with the outcome. Instagram user "fdc0341" took video in a Cleveland bar as they reacted to Miocic's first-round victory.
Now that Miocic was broken Cleveland's championship curse, there's a new curse he has to take down: the UFC heavyweight title curse. No fighter has defended the title more than twice successfully, going all the way back to the days of Ken Shamrock.
As for the new heavyweight champ? He's confident that he'll be able to put an end to another sports curse.
"Cleveland’s got the curse, and I’m bringing a championship home to Cleveland," he said. "I’m going to keep this belt a while. I promise you that.”
Maybe it's finally time for Stipe to take on a nickname. Right now, "Cursebreaker" sounds like a legitimate candidate.