Cleveland (92.3 the Fan) – Stipe Miocic is not the most popular man among Brazilians at the moment after defending his UFC Heavyweight Title on Saturday night against Junior Dos Santos.
It was the Clevelander’s second straight title defense, after taking the strap from Brazilian Fabricio Werdum on May 14, 2016.
One Brazilian who was happy about Miocic’s extended title reign was his close friend, Indians catcher Yan Gomes, the first Brazilian-born player in the history of Major League Baseball.
As Miocic’s title reign passes a calendar year, as it did on Sunday, Gomes seems to be emerging from a stretch of injuries that hampered his ability to perform at his highest level.
The former Silver Slugger-award winner has been peppered about questions regarding his issues at the plate since his breakout year in 2014, but never let his frustration show through. Through countless answers about competitive at-bats, playing through those injuries, and never pressing, Gomes seems to have re-claimed his spot at the plate.
Gomes says he and Miocic talk often through text, the latter being a big baseball fan, having played third-base at Cleveland State.
UFC color commentator Joe Rogan spoke of the former collegiate ballplayer’s stoic walk-out during Miocic’s long walk into the octagon on Saturday, and throughout all the struggles for Gomes, he may have picked up a non-verbal advantage from his friend.
“At times, you have to put on a poker face,” Gomes said. “That’s something we talked about, like even some of his fights, he’ll tell me that he got hurt during it, but you’ve got to keep a poker face. I think it goes the same way with us. Sometimes you’re scuffling, and you’ve got to keep that poker face like you’re still ready to kick some ass.”
With criticism abound, Gomes has started to put those competitive at-bats together in May, going 10-for-28 with five walks, four doubles and a home run over nine games.
The two became friends in 2014 while the current champion was doing a press tour to promote his first bout against Dos Santos, which ended up being the last time Miocic lost a match. Gomes was actually wearing a Brazil shirt the first time the pair of friends was photographed together, something the champ overlooked.
“We hit it off ever since,” Gomes said.
As for the Brazilian connection, the catcher erred on the side of his friend.
“Whatever it is, man, he’s one of my really good friends,” Gomes said. “Brazilian or wherever they are from, doesn’t really matter to me.”
Just as Miocic is a fan of the sport that pays Gomes, the opposite is true, maybe to an extreme degree. The main event was not the only bout on the card that Gomes was locked into, as he tuned in as soon as he got home Saturday night.
“I’m a fan of the sport, I’m watching every single one,” he said. “I don’t think my wife likes it because UFC is every weekend. I’ll sit from like 6 or 7, whenever the card starts, to 12 o’clock in the morning. I just enjoy it. It’s kind of like any other sport, I just enjoy watching it.”