Jon Jones concluded his UFC 182 triumph over Daniel Cormier with a crotch-chop and a little later, mockery of his opponent’s post-fight tears.
More than two years later, Jones’ reaction to his second triumph over Cormier was decidedly different. After vanquishing Cormier with a perfectly-placed head kick and follow-up ground-and-pound 3:01 into the third round of their headlining encounter at UFC 214, “Bones” took time to pay tribute to his rival in the Octagon.
“I want to take this time to thank Daniel Cormier for being my biggest rival and motivator. Daniel Cormier, guys, he has absolutely no reason to hang his head,” Jones said. “He has been a model champion, a model husband, a model father, a teammate, leader and I aspire to be a lot more like that man. Unfortunately we are opponents, but outside of that he is a true champion for the rest of his life.”
The rivalry that began before their first fight gained steam even as Jones was largely inactive over the past two years. Cormier taunted the Jackson-Wink MMA standout for his transgressions outside the cage while he built his own resume as the promotion’s new light heavyweight champion.
After falling to Jones in emphatic fashion at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday night, Cormier broke down in tears inside the Octagon. This time, Jones walked over to briefly console his opponent.
At the post-fight press conference, Jones further put to rest any bad blood between he and Cormier by reiterating his respect for the American Kickboxing Academy product.
“I’ve always felt that way about Daniel,” Jones said. “I’ve always felt like he’s a pretty classy guy. A guy to be respected. A standup champion, a model champion. But unfortunately I came into this game at a young age with big ideas. Despite how good of a person he is, there is no mercy in combat, and I had to do what I had to do. It’s either me or him. What happened, happened.
“He should be respected, and I don’t ever think he should be questioned whether he was a true champion or not. In my eyes, he fought two of the toughest guys in the division. He won those fights and he carried himself like a champion. I think that should be recognized.”