Anthony Johnson thinks Daniel Cormier might be a tougher foe than Jon Jones. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
When Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson clash in the center of the Octagon in the main event of UFC 187, there will be a large faction of fight fans grumbling about the winner.
It’s not that the victor is a disliked heel by any means, but in the eyes of many a critic, he who has his hand raised will not be considered the legitimate light heavyweight champion.
Both Cormier and Johnson understand this rationale and while they might not exactly embrace it, they certainly aren’t allowing it to smother their focus come fight night.
“Anthony and I are where we are for a reason,” Cormier said during a UFC 187 conference call. “Since he came back (to the UFC), he’s been whacking everybody and the only loss I have is from the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Would it help to beat Jones? Yes. But people are going to believe what they want to believe and it doesn’t really matter what you do; you can’t change public perception. What I can do is my absolute best and if I win, I will hold that belt high and proud.”
Johnson wholeheartedly agreed.
“People are going say what they want to say, they are going to think what they want to think,” Johnson quipped. “At the end of the day, I’m just going to do what I need to do and I don’t really care. I don’t really have any feelings on that, and I’m so focused on this fight right now that I don’t have time to really even think about it.”
Johnson already had his title shot secured as he was supposed to fight then champion Jon Jones. But Jones was cited and eventually charged in an alleged hit-and-run accident in New Mexico where another motorist – a pregnant woman – suffered a broken arm and marijuana was found inside of his rented vehicle. As a result, “Bones” was eventually stripped of his title and suspended indefinitely by the UFC.
Enter Jones nemesis Cormier, an opponent that Johnson admitted to having mixed emotions about facing.
“Jon is still the number one guy in my weight class, and everybody who competes wants to say that they competed against the best and fought the champ,” admitted Johnson. “That part disappoints me because he’s not around right now. What doesn’t disappoint me is that I get to fight another elite athlete, a guy who I think is actually a tougher fight for me than Jon Jones. He’s a grinder and he brings it. This is his second chance [at the title], and he’ll bring it even more. I think this is a good thing for everybody because at the end of the day you’ve got two guys who are real hungry to get the belt. This is what it’s about.”
While some may see Johnson’s remarks as backhanded compliments, “DC” doesn’t see it that way. In fact, he completely understands Johnson’s initial frustrations and was shocked himself when he got the call to replace “Bones” in the main event.
“Jon casts such a big shadow over this division, so anytime this weight division is discussed, there’s going to be some mention of Jon Jones,” the AKA product said. “I wasn’t expecting to be fighting for the title. Anthony Johnson was expected to fight for it and he wound up getting exactly what he was promised, and that is the world title. If anybody should be asking whether the belt is real it should be me because I just fought for it and lost. He earned the title shot when he beat Alexander Gustafsson in January. It’s not his fault that something happened to his opponent outside of the Octagon that was so big that the fight couldn’t go forward.”
Both men agreed that should Jones return in a timely manner, he should receive an immediate shot at the title regardless of who walks out of the MGM Grand Garden Arena victorious on May 23. But the two 205 pounders have more to focus on than the former champ.
“This is his second shot at the title, and he’s going to bring everything he’s gotta bring to win that title,” Johnson said. “People get second chances in life and this is his second chance, just like this is my second chance when I returned to the UFC. And you see what happened as far as what I’ve done. Daniel has gotten to the top, but he wasn’t able to achieve that goal that he set out to achieve.
“I think he’s tougher (than Jones), too,” the Blackzilians member added. “With me being a wrestler and with him being a wrestler, I know what it takes. When you get that chance, you gotta hop on it. We are also a little crazy because we are wrestlers. It’s going to be one of those fights that will be an all-out war. Daniel has power, speed, good technique and his wrestling is top notch. We can’t deny that. To me, that’s great, and that means he’s going to be tougher than Jon. Daniel also packs a lot of power, where Jon Jones isn’t known for his power; he’s known for using his technique, his crazy kicks, his range.”
This is without question the biggest fight “Rumble” has ever been involved in, and that is something Cormier might be able to exploit. Considering that he’s already been on combat sports’ biggest stages, he knows what to expect and said that he has learned so much from losing to Jones back in January.
“The first time, the build-up was insane with all the stuff Jon and I went through,” Cormier said. “I was so emotionally attached to that fight. I think at some point, the energy was kind of drained out of me. But this time I feel real good. Looking back at the whole thing with the fight at the press conference, the arguing on the press call, everything that had happened, I think when the fight finally started, I had that adrenaline dump. Even though I lost, after the fight it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders because it meant that I didn’t have to be so consumed with Jon Jones.”
Cormier doesn’t have to worry about being consumed with Jones at all anymore. He’s got a heck of a test in front him with Johnson, who has been laying out opponents like carpet. If Cormier can withstand the crushing punching power of “Rumble” and utilize his better overall wrestling, he might realize vindication by finally winning the title. If Johnson can keep it standing, he would most likely add to his impressive nine-fight winning streak.
Either way the fight unfolds, both Cormier and Johnson promise they are beyond prepared. While most people outside of the Octagon might be thinking about how Jones’ reign was usurped by his own demons, Cormier and Johnson will be thinking about only one thing: winning the UFC light heavyweight title.