UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic is "highly unlikely" to compete again in 2019 after suffering an eye injury during his fight against Daniel Cormier in August, according to his agent.
Miocic (19-3) reclaimed his heavyweight title by knocking out Cormier in the fourth round of their title fight rematch at UFC 241. The UFC has expressed interest in booking a trilogy bout between Miocic and Cormier, potentially as early as UFC 245 on Dec. 14 in Las Vegas, but Miocic told ESPN he is still recovering from a procedure on his retina.
"I'll be ready to fight when I can see out of both eyes again," Miocic said in a statement to ESPN. "I can't wait to defend my belt."
According to Miocic's agent, Jim Walter, the injury occurred when Cormier accidentally poked Miocic in the eye during their rematch. Miocic complained of eye pokes during both of his fights against Cormier, in 2018 and 2019.
"Mr. Miocic sustained a major retina injury from multiple eye pokes during his bout at UFC 241," said Walter, of Kaulig Sports and Entertainment. "Our client's health and safety is our top priority. We are excited for him to return to action when he is healthy to compete in his seventh consecutive world title fight."
Walter said that Miocic is scheduled to have the eye reevaluated in three weeks to determine whether another procedure is necessary. Once he receives medical clearance, Miocic will resume only noncontact activities at first, leaving a fight in 2019 virtually impossible.
Cormier, 40, told Ariel Helwani's MMA Show on Monday he is putting off retirement to fight Miocic a third time. Cormier (22-2) defeated Miocic via first-round knockout during their first meeting at UFC 226 in July 2018.
"I'm gonna fight this guy again," Cormier said. "My intention is to fight him in the right way. ... It has to be against Stipe, no one else matters."
Miocic, of Independence, Ohio, set the UFC record for consecutive heavyweight title defenses at three, from 2016 to 2018. His loss to Cormier in their first bout is his only defeat in his past eight bouts.