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Jitters got to Cormier in UFC debut
SAN JOSE, Calif.
Daniel Cormier ran into the Octagon at UFC on FOX 7 on Saturday, the heavyweight apparently eager to make his UFC debut.
But he wasn’t nearly as active once the fight began. He did get the win, but only by outmaneuvering two-time UFC champ Frank Mir in a listless fight that drew jeers from many of those assembled inside HP Pavilion.
"Obviously, you are going to continue to fight your fight, but you can’t ignore that," Cormier said of the boos from a fan base that embraced Cormier during a successful run at Strikeforce. "That’s something I really don’t like. I want to put on exciting fights. I want to be in the fight where people are enjoying it."
It was a rare lackluster bout not only for Cormier, but for the UFC on FOX 7 card. There were eight knockouts, tying UFC 92 for the most KO’s on one card.
The fight ended just like Cormier’s first 11 pro fights: His hand was raised at the end. There was something, however, that was different, something Cormier said he noticed minutes beforehand.
"I have had very long athletic career and competed at the highest level of all my sports," Cormier said. "I always laughed at (UFC president) Dana (White) when he said there were jitters and there are nerves that come along with this. I was like, ‘My career had prepared me for this. There was no chance.’
"But, man, I was nervous. I felt so nervous. It was almost like you want it so bad. You want to do so well, and you kind of lay an egg."
It was something that Cormier’s coach, Javier Mendez of American Kickboxing Academy, didn’t see coming out of Cormier, who nearly medaled in wrestling in the 2004 Summer Olympics.
"He surprised me when he said he was nervous," Mendez told FOXSports.com. "I didn’t expect that. I really didn’t. He’s always talking about being in the Olympics, etc., etc. I was thinking that the UFC is different because there was more attention, but I’ve never been to the Olympics."
Cormier may not have had the UFC premiere he wanted, and Saturday’s bout seems to have put to rest — or at least further delayed — any chance he’ll be facing UFC heavyweight champ, training partner and close friend Cain Velasquez.
"Even (if the UFC) said, ‘You’re going to fight Cain Velasquez next,’ I don’t think that my performance warranted a title shot," Cormier said. "I have some room (to improve). We’ll get together and figure it out."
Mendez echoed those sentiments.
"One thing is for sure, if they did want him to fight Cain, that performance did not warrant it," Mendez said.
Mendez said he expects Cormier to fight at least once more in heavyweight before the much-speculated move to light heavyweight (205 pounds).
"It’s going to take some time," said Cormier, who weighed in at 235 pounds on Friday. "That’s the issue. I’m healthy and I’d be willing fight right away at heavyweight, but if I go down, it’s going to take some time.
"I want to do it healthy. I don’t want to die."
Cormier suffered kidney failure before the 2008 Summer Games. The ailment — a product of several years of cutting weight by dangerous means — kept him out of those Olympics and basically ended his amateur wrestling career.
Cormier told FOXSports.com previously he’d need to be under the supervision of a dietician to get down to a weight he hadn’t been at since high school. It’s also possible that Cormier, 34, could do a trial weight cut to see if he can slim down without putting his health at risk.
"I don’t tell guys where to go," White said. "He can fight wherever he wants. I respect the fact he knows the champion and they’ve discussed fighting each other. I like that. But if he wants to go down to 205, I wouldn’t have a problem with that, either. I think he’d be an exciting addition to the 205-pound (division)."
Unlike his relationship with Velasquez, who is scheduled to face Antonio Silva in UFC 160 on May 25, Cormier has no close ties to Jon Jones, the light heavyweight champ. Jones faces Chael Sonnen at UFC 159 this Saturday.
Cormier may not know his opponent or even which weight division he’ll be in next. But whenever and wherever it is, at least the Octagon won’t be foreign.
"More than anything, I felt tired," said Cormier on how the jitters influenced his effort. "I have never gotten tired. Usually, I’m in a fight and I feel great. In this fight, I was kind of tired and I think it was my nerves."
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