After vanquishing the man many regarded as the most dangerous contender in the light heavyweight division, Daniel Cormier seemed to revel in taunting his future opponents.
Cormier cruised past Anthony Johnson in the UFC 210 headliner in Buffalo, N.Y., on Saturday night, submitting his heavy-handed foe with a rear-naked choke 3:37 into the second round of their rematch. It was quicker and less harrowing for Cormier than their first encounter at UFC 187, when “Rumble” floored the American Kickboxing Academy product in the opening stanza before succumbing to a rear-naked choke in round three.
While Johnson surprisingly announced his retirement after the defeat, there appear to be two imminent challenges on the horizon for Cormier. One is surging British slugger Jimi Manuwa, who has rebounded from a loss to Johnson by scoring consecutive knockout victories over Ovince St. Preux and Corey Anderson.
“Jimi Manuwa thinks he wants to fight me. He doesn’t want to,” Cormier said. “It’s sad, because I like Corey Anderson. He’s a great guy. Corey is still young. Jimi just beat Corey and he’s wanting a title fight. He likes to talk about me, says my style is boring. I finish people too, man. It takes me a little bit of time. I don’t just knock guys out, but I finish people too. If Jimi Manuwa wants to fight me, it’s a one round fight. I’d get him out of there in no time.”
Of course, Manuwa isn’t the most lucrative fight that awaits Cormier. That would be ex-champ Jon Jones, who defeated Cormier via unanimous decision in their first meeting at UFC 182. Jones won’t be eligible to compete until his USADA-mandated suspension ends in July. Until that happens, Cormier isn’t going to give his rival any guarantees.
“If you’re in class and you get suspended, you don’t get to compete,” Cormier said. “Until Jon Jones gets his academics in order, he can’t talk to me about a fight. When he’s eligible, then we can talk about a fight.”
Cormier isn’t the only one who is taking a wait-and-see approach regarding Jones, whose troubles have limited him to just one fight since his UFC 182 clash with “DC.” UFC President Dana White isn’t willing to book Jones in any type of featured bout when he is eligible, not after his failed drug test resulted in the last-minute cancellation of the UFC 200 headliner last year.
“Jones would be the co-main event when he comes back,” White said. “I don’t want to spend the millions when I don’t know if the fight will happen.”
For his part, Cormier said he would only be willing to take a co-headlining spot if Conor McGregor was atop the card. Those assertions would seem to eliminate the possibility of Cormier facing Jones at UFC 213 on July 8, although “Bones” will be eligible to return by then.
For now, Cormier is simply embracing his heel role in the UFC. Whatever the order, he sounds ready to take on all challenges.
“They can all get it. I don’t care. I’m not gonna sit here and beg for cheers. Cheer who you want. At the end of the day I get the job done,” Cormier said. “I am who I am. The people who know me…know who I am. I cannot change an opinion of people who know me from afar. They don’t like me, they don’t like me. I’m collecting belts and checks.”