Daniel Cormier: "Jon Jones isn't ducking anybody"
JUN 06, 2014 6:15p ET
As much as Daniel Cormier wanted to get excited about facing UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in the next few months, he never let his hopes get too high.
The two-time Olympian earned a title shot in May when he submitted former Strikeforce champ Dan Henderson at UFC 173, but even with the win Cormier was aware that he was already in line behind current No. 1 contender Alexander Gustafsson.
There was a glimmer of hope this week, however, when UFC president Dana White revealed that Jones was asking to forgo the fight with Gustafsson in favor of facing Cormier next. The saga played out over the course of a few days, but eventually on Thursday night the UFC announced that the bout between Jones and Gustafsson was officially signed, sealed and delivered for UFC 178 on September 27.
So once Cormier got the news he enjoyed a brownie, some ice cream and a beer since he didn't have to worry about keeping his weight in check right away and despite his grand plan of facing Jones for the belt, he had a feeling things would end up playing out this way.
"As hopeful as I was, as excited as I was, I'm still a realist. I knew the chances of it happening weren't very big," Cormier told FOX Sports on Friday. "Everything is what you make it. If I'm going to be down in the dumps, sad, disappointed, it's going to have an overall effect in my life. It will have an effect on me, it will have an effect on my family, it will have an effect on my kids, it will have an effect on my friendships. So if I'm able to keep things in perspective, if I'm able to maintain a positive outlook on everything, it makes it easier to deal with."
“Jon Jones isn't afraid of anybody. I think that's what we kind of miss in this whole 'he's ducking this guy, he's ducking that guy', Jon Jones isn't ducking anybody. ”
The perception Jones dealt with during this ordeal was that he was somehow ducking Gustafsson following their epic five round battle last September that saw him nearly lose his title when the night was over. In response, Jones released a video (and then later deleted it) stating that he already beat Gustafsson, but Cormier was an undefeated Olympian and that was the fight he requested.
The UFC opted to stick with the Gustafsson fight and Jones conceded to that matchup as well, but Cormier scoffs at the idea that the champion was somehow running away from any opponent presented to him.
While the two fighters have verbally sparred on a few occasions, Cormier isn't taking anything away from Jones when it comes to his physical gifts on display inside the Octagon. Jones has gone through a murderer's row of fighters to get where he's at and claiming that now all of a sudden he's worried about facing anyone is just ludicrous.
"Jon Jones isn't afraid of anybody," Cormier said. "I think that's what we kind of miss in this whole 'he's ducking this guy, he's ducking that guy', Jon Jones isn't ducking anybody. He's the champion of the world for a reason and that's because he's good.
"I think it's posturing more than anything. We don't know his compensation package, we don't know what he makes, what he wants to make, we don't know if his decision was based on they didn't sell as many pay-per-views as he wanted. You don't know. There's so many things that go into those types of things."
So now with Jones matched up with Gustafsson on Sept. 27 that leaves Cormier with some decisions to make. Prior to his fight with Henderson a few weeks ago, he suffered a knee injury to his LCL (lateral collateral ligament) so severe he nearly had to pull out of the bout. While surgery remains an option, Cormier is currently contemplating rehabilitation and rest as opposed to going under the knife.
If all else fails, surgery is still an option but Cormier would rather avoid that at all possible cost.
"I'm not a big surgery guy. Once you get surgery, you're so committed to everything. You can't train, you can't do anything, you're just rehabbing the knee," Cormier explained. "I'm going to see what my options are, I don't necessarily want to do surgery. I would much rather rehab it and just be really aggressive in my rehab and try to strengthen it."
Once the Jones/Gustafsson rematch happens, the direction where Cormier goes becomes much clearer as well. He's currently the next challenger in line for the belt and will get the winner of the title fight from September, but there's always a mountain of unknowns in a situation like that.
The winner of the fight could get injured, which would delay the next title defense or the champion could decide to take a lengthy period away from action like Jones did after his first bout with Gustafsson where he didn't fight again for seven months.
It's a big reason why Cormier is leaving all of the options on the table. In a perfect world, he'll bear witness to Jones vs. Gustafsson while sitting cage side and then start preparing for his own title defense a few months later. On the other end of the spectrum, Cormier hasn't shut out the idea of fighting again in the interim if the UFC needs him or the promotion comes up with a great opportunity that he wants to take.
"I'm okay to see how it plays out. But if the UFC has something that's very good or something that makes a lot of sense, we'd be willing to take it. We're not afraid to fight in any way, shape or form. You don't make money not fighting. So if it made sense and it was a big fight then we would do it, but that's something I would discuss with my coaches and management," Cormier said.
"I would prefer to wait and just get better. I would like to spend this time just becoming a better mixed martial artist."
When it's all said and done, Cormier believes when he does fight for the UFC gold it will be against Jones regardless of the timing of it all. Cormier takes nothing away from Gustafsson's performance against the champion, but he feels Jones underestimated the Swede the first time around when they met in September 2013.
There's no way Jones does that again.
"The biggest reason I think Jones will win is because a lot of people around him before the the last fight were telling him that the kid didn't belong and he had just been preparing for Rampage (Jackson), Rashad (Evans), Shogun (Rua), and (Lyoto) Machida and then you get Gustafsson -- a guy that's never been the champion, never fought for the title," Cormier said. "So you get a new guy that's just making his way and it's not like Alexander had like five or six top 10 wins. I think a lot of people around Jon were saying how the kid didn't belong, and I think he may have bought into that.
"I think he trained at about 80-percent and he left things in the gym and that's why the fight was as it was when he fought Gustafsson. He won't do that this time."
In the mean time while Cormier is rehabilitating his knee and waiting on the outcome of Jones vs. Gustafsson II, he'll return to his first passion before MMA ever came calling. The 2008 Olympic team captain will dust off his singlet and lace up his wrestling shoes for an exhibition match against former two-time NCAA champion Chris Pendleton at the UFC Fan Expo in Las Vegas on July 5 as confirmed by the Ultimate Alliance on Friday.
The matchup takes place as part of the UFC Fan Expo's partnership with the Ultimate Alliance wrestling tournament going on that weekend as well.