Daniel Cormier knows he hasn’t seen the last of Jon Jones. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
As the noise level rose at Saturday’s post-fight press conference in the MGM Grand, an ebullient Daniel Cormier couldn’t resist the chance to take advantage of his newfound status.
“Hey guys, keep it down a little bit,” he said. “The champ is speaking.”
It was a complete one-eighty from the scene four months ago, when a high-octane feud with Jon Jones culminated in a humbling five-round defeat that moved Cormier to tears and temporarily sent him into contemplative seclusion.
Eventually Cormier emerged from that dark place, stronger and more determined than before. Perhaps it was a little bit of good fortune that catapulted him into another title shot at UFC 187, but there was nothing lucky about what occurred in the Octagon against Anthony Johnson.
Cormier tasted Johnson’s power early, as he was floored by a “Rumble” right hand in round one. That alone was uncharted territory for the American Kickboxing Academy product.
“I wasn’t completely out, but I did get stunned,” he said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever been knocked down in practice, competition, anything.”
That would turn out to be Johnson’s last real highlight. Cormier grounded the Blackzilians member in round two and roughed him up with punches and elbows from top position before finishing off his exhausted foe with a rear-naked choke at the 2:39 mark of round three. As the bout unfolded, Cormier’s grinding style gradually broke Johnson’s will to compete.
“I think tonight I was more focused on wrestling and really doing what got me to the show. I’m a grinder,” Cormier said. “I’m a guy that will take you down, make you carry my weight as you’re getting up. I’ll continue to hit you, pressure you and push you against the side of the cage until eventually something will present itself. Anthony did a phenomenal job early of defending himself on the bottom. But as the round went on, the opportunities started to present themselves.”
Still, as impressive as Cormier’s effort in the Octagon was, it was his post-fight message that resonated most.
“Jon Jones, get your s—t together,” Cormier barked into Joe Rogan’s microphone. “I’m waiting for you.”
Yes, Cormier is aware that no matter what he does, Jones will continue to cast a shadow over the entire division. It wasn’t until “Bones” was stripped of the light heavyweight title and suspended indefinitely that Cormier got a second chance to vie for 205-pound gold, and there will still be people that don’t recognize him as the true champion for that very reason.
But, Cormier would like to point out that Jones’ transgressions are what got us to this point in the first place. The ex-champion still has to sort out his legal situation as he faces a potential felony charge regarding an alleged hit-and-run car accident in Albuquerque, N.M., last month. With that in mind, Cormier doesn’t think his championship victory is diminished in the least.
“You see what’s sitting right there? That’s a gold belt. That thing’s reserved for the UFC champion,” Cormier said. “I didn’t disqualify myself from competition. Jon did. Jon’s the pound-for-pound No. 1 fighter in the world. We all know that. But he disqualified himself from this competition right now. I’m very proud of what I accomplished tonight.
“I fought a very tough guy that deserved to be there. If anything, I think what tonight showed is that if Jon Jones can get his stuff together, how special is he? We can’t take this guy for granted,” he continued. “He’s a special talent. It’s not about the inside of the ring; you have to be a champion in all facets of life. It’s unfortunate but I believe that he’ll get his stuff together and then him and I will fight again.”
No matter what the future might hold, what transpired at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night will allow Cormier to eventually walk away from mixed martial arts as content as one could possibly be.
“I didn’t win the Olympics. I didn’t win the NCAA Tournament. I didn’t win a lot of things,” he said. “But I won the Strikeforce championship, and I won this championship. This will be the last athletic thing that I do in my life. And when I put my resume in mixed martial arts, I’m fine now. I won the two biggest organization’s in the world’s championships.”
Still, Cormier is well aware that he and Jones are inextricably linked and probably will be at least until they can square off in the Octagon one more time.
“As I said leading into this fight, we’re so tied together, Jon and I, that I don’t think that’s going to change until we fight again,” Cormier said. “Even if he beat me last time, even in that, you don’t stop believing in yourself. I still think that I can beat him. We’re tied together, and I don’t think we’re ever going to be apart until I retire from the sport.”