As one of Cain Velasquez’s closest friends, the UFC on ESPN 1 main event was difficult to watch for Daniel Cormier.
In his first fight in more than two years, Velasquez suffered a 26-second knockout loss to Francis Ngannou at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, a result that shocked those in attendance who had come to cheer the former Arizona State University Sundevil. They weren’t alone in that feeling.
“Just very disappointed,” said Cormier on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Sunday night. “I know how hard he trained. I know how well he prepared for this fight. And for it to end the way that it did was very unfortunate, was very hard to watch. I wasn’t able to get to Phoenix. It’s sad. It makes me very sad that I’m not there right now and that he lost in this way.”
Ngannou appeared to rock Velasquez with a short uppercut as the American Kickboxing Academy product was closing the distance against the fence. At that same moment, Velasquez’s knee buckled and he fell awkwardly to the canvas. Moments later, the heavyweight bout was halted. Velasquez would later say that the knee injury — not Ngannou’s punch — was the reason for his defeat.
According to Cormier, there were no injury issues during Velasquez’s camp leading up to UFC on ESPN 1.
“I thought that he looked good. He was ready to fight….I thought he was ready to fight,” Cormier said. “I felt like he was ready to win this fight. You just cannot control some of the things that happen. He hurt his knee and also you’re fighting a big powerful guy like Francis. There’s no room for error.”
Cormier is recovering from his own back issues and might not be ready to fight until the summer. A lucrative clash with Brock Lesnar remains the dream matchup, but there might be a score to settle with Ngannou should the opportunity arise.
“Every time we see something like that the emotions tell you go get it back. You go make it right,” Cormier admitted. “Francis Ngannou, he didn’t ask for a fight. Maybe later he will. And if that’s something that we decide what we want to do, that’s what I’ll do. I won’t go fight Francis Ngannou, I’ll go beat Francis Ngannou.”
When Cormier was being interviewed, Ngannou had not yet spoken at Sunday’s post-fight press conference. However, when he did address the media, the Cameroonian-born Frenchman made it clear that a heavyweight title shot is his primary focus.