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Daniel Cormier is in a tough spot when it comes to his legacy.
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titleholder now holds the unflattering distinction of beating everybody placed in front of him not named Jon Jones. While that may be good for most fighters, Cormier isn’t like most fighters. His rivalry with Jones goes far beyond two mixed martial artists facing one another. It was extremely personal, and for Cormier, it was integral to his legacy that he beat the man who is recognized by most as the best pound-for-pound fighter in MMA.
He tried and failed to get the job done -- twice. The second loss was more definitive, as Jones knocked out Cormier in the third round of their UFC 214 rematch to regain the title he never lost inside the Octagon. As expected, Cormier was devastated with the result and openly shed tears when being interviewed by commentator Joe Rogan afterward. “DC” resurfaced this week and spoke with The MMA Hour about the loss and his future. After explaining the gravity of the defeat, the 38-year-old revealed that he would continue to fight and fully expected to see Jones in the Octagon again.
“Why would I stop fighting?” Cormier asked. “I feel like I still love the competition more than anything. That’s really what’s driving me. When I don’t have competition, [when] I’m not in something like that, I’m miserable, man. I love to compete. I love to be in the environment. Not only am I going to fight again, but I do believe that Jon Jones and I will fight again. So of course I have a desire to fight, and I believe that him and I will compete again before it’s all said and done.
“I don’t know exactly what path leads back to a fight with Jones, but I anticipate he’ll be the champion,” he added, “and I don’t believe anyone else in this division can compete with me. So after I win enough fights, I believe that we’ll fight again. Also, we make money together, and when you make money together, the UFC is usually pretty open to making those matches.”
What’s interesting is that Cormier has effectively become the Hakeem Olajuwon to Jones’ Michael Jordan. Olajuwon became champion during Jordan’s absence. However, Jordan never had the pleasure of showing Olajuwon who was the boss, as the Seattle Supersonics defeated the Houston Rockets the year Jordan returned to the NBA Finals. Because of this, we oftentimes forget about Olajuwon when discussing the greatest players and the greatest teams. Like Olajuwon, Cormier is now viewed as the benefactor of Jones’ departure, and his title reign at 205 pounds has an asterisk of sorts attached. It essentially suggests that Cormier would never have won the championship if Jones had not been out of the UFC, which is probably true.
Where Cormier goes from here is anyone’s guess. A prevailing thought has always been that “DC” would have eventually claimed heavyweight gold if he opted to stay in that division. However, he decided to drop down a weight class so as to avoid being put in the tough position of facing American Kickboxing Academy teammate Cain Velasquez. The irony in all of this is that the oft-injured Velasquez has only fought twice since Cormier dropped to light heavyweight -- Cormier has fought eight times -- and it’s probable that the two would never have had to fight each other.
With Velasquez’s future in question, the coast should be clear for Cormier to move up and go after the heavyweight crown, right? Wrong. With Jones entertaining a fight with Brock Lesnar, it is wholly possible that “Bones” will make the long-awaited jump to heavyweight. It won’t really matter how many titans Cormier topples as long as Jones is around, because you had better believe that Jones could get a title fight at heavyweight if he requested it. If Cormier managed to climb the ranks in that scenario, he’d be stuck having to face Jones again.
The fact is that Jones is inescapable for Cormier. Wherever “DC” goes, Jones’ looming shadow will be there; and while you can’t help but respect Cormier’s persistence in wanting to face Jones again, one has to wonder whether the UFC will be eager to make that fight happen in the near future. By the time the knockout loss is old news, Cormier will be hovering around 40 and few would give him a chance to beat a still-in-his-prime Jones. No matter what Jones tells us today, he would gladly wipe out Cormier again if he had the opportunity to do so.
Hopefully, Cormier will be able to find a way to detach himself from Jones, but with few elite fighters present at heavyweight and light heavyweight, it’s going to be difficult for him moving forward. He’s almost a victim of his own greatness, having proven to be so much better than everyone else. As of right now, there is no Joe Frazier for Cormier’s version of George Foreman to face after losing to Jones’ version of Muhammad Ali.
It’s pretty much Jones, Cormier and everybody else in the light heavyweight division, though Alexander Gustafsson is still around. Obviously, things could change if both fighters move up to heavyweight and find a plethora of new challenges, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that these two rivals will be at the top of the food chain again.
No, Cormier will never be recognized as the Greatest of All-Time, but beating everyone outside the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet is nothing to be ashamed of.