Stipe Miocic: Cleveland fans would welcome LeBron James back with open arms

"Welcome back to Cleveland, LeBron. Let's forget about that whole burning jersey incident" 

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC / Nathaniel S. Butler

UFC heavyweight Stipe Miocic is currently a fighter operating without a nickname, but at some point he might want to consider ‘Captain Cleveland’ because of how much hometown pride he carries with him at any given time.

Miocic was raised in the Ohio city before he attended Cleveland State University when high school was over.  Before he was a fighter competing in main events for the UFC, Miocic was also a star in baseball as well as wrestling before transitioning to MMA several years ago.

The one thing Miocic is above anything else, however, is a rabid Cleveland sports fan.  He regularly attends games for the Cleveland Browns and the Cleveland Indians, and remains a big supporter of the Cleveland Cavaliers as well.

So it’s interesting to hear Miocic’s thoughts on fellow Cleveland son LeBron James, who bolted from the city a few years ago to join the Miami Heat.  James is currently tearing through the playoffs looking for his third NBA championship in a row.

When he left Cleveland a few years back, James was crucified by the fans in the city who were ready to riot over his choice to leave while going as far as burning his replica jersey in the streets moments after he made his choice on live TV to go to play in Miami.

Miocic was around during that time as well, but he always had a different opinion about James’ choice.  As a professional athlete himself, Miocic understands what it’s like to face tough decisions and James did what was best for him at the time and nobody should fault him for that.

"I understand why he left, it is what it is, he can do what he wants, he’s a big boy," Miocic said about James.  "He’s the best basketball player in the world.  But the way he went about it, he probably could have went a different way.  It sucks, but the guy’s a good ball player, you can’t take that away from him."

There has been a lot of chatter lately about the possibility of James returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers after his time in Miami is finished.  Whether or not that’s fantasy or reality remains to be seen, but some have wondered if Cleveland would open up their arms and welcome James back or if he’d have to re-earn their loyalty after leaving to go win championships in Miami.

Miocic is quick to answer for all of Cleveland — LeBron would be welcomed back in a split second because above all else he’s a winner.  And in case anyone is keeping score at home, since James’ departure in 2010, the Cavaliers have gone 97-215 overall while not making the playoffs a single time during that span.

"Hell yeah," Miocic said quickly when asked if James would be welcomed back to Cleveland.  "Everyone in Cleveland would take him back right now. They’ll get over it real fast."

As far as those fans who went as far as burning his jersey in some kind of weird midnight ritual after he left for Miami, Miocic believes the fans would be quick to pony up some hard earned cast to buy some new LeBron James clothing should he choose to come back and play for them again.

"100-percent (they would)," Miocic said with a laugh.

So there you have it Cleveland fans, LeBron James is welcome to come back and Art Modell can go back to being the most despised sports figure in the history of the city.  All is right with the world again.