Cormier on the brink
Even a victory by Daniel Cormier in the final Strikeforce card on Saturday won’t be the heavyweight’s most memorable moment in the soon-to-be-shuttered MMA league.
Cormier told FOXSports.com he’d still recall his rookie outing more vividly.
“It may not have been my greatest moment, but it was my first,” said Cormier, who is slated to face relative unknown Dion Staring in the co-main event in Oklahoma City. “(Strikeforce founder) Scott Coker for some reason put me on Showtime in my first pro fight. It was the first pro fight for (Gary Frazier) as well. Both of us just went out swinging and we exhausted ourselves by the end of the first round."
Cormier knocked out Frazier in the second round of his debut in September 2009. The former Olympic wrestler has gone on to win his next nine fights -- all but three in Strikeforce -- to become one of the top heavyweight contenders in the world. Strikeforce, an outfit purchased by UFC’s parent company, Zuffa, in 2011, will cease operations after Saturday’s event, which is headlined by the welterweight title bout beween Nate Marquardt and Tarec Saffiedine.
Strikeforce has built heavyweights Cormier and Alistair Overeem along with judo-turned-MMA phenomenon Ronda Rousey into bonafied stars. Those three -- among others -- will find a new home in the UFC.
Overeem, who regained his license this week after nine-month ban for a violating Nevada’s performance-enhancing drug policy, will resume his UFC career against Antonio Silva at UFC 156 on Feb. 2. Rousey will headline the UFC 157 on Feb. 23, where she is set to face Liz Carmouche in UFC’s first female bout.
Exactly where Cormier will end up in UFC though, isn't as settled.
“A lot of things can happen,” Cormier said. “I don’t really know. I would fight whomever. Ideally, I’d want to fight (Mir).”
Understandably, the 33-year-old would love to revisit a bout with Frank Mir. It would be an opportunity to close the door on November 2012 fight that was cancelled due to Mir tearing the meniscus in his knee during training.
Cormier also knows who he doesn’t want to fight: UFC heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez. Velasquez, who regained the heavyweight belt with a dominant victory over Junior dos Santos last month, is a teammate and training partner of Cormier’s at San Jose’s American Kickboxing Academy.
“Daniel is going to challenge for a title,” AKA founder Javier Mendez said. “That’s going to happen if he stays at heavyweight or goes down to light heavyweight. I think he could drop weight and go after the light heavyweight title. It’s going to be up to Daniel.”
First, there’s the weight issue. He needs to get down to 205 pounds to meet the light heavyweight requirement, something Mendez said will take a dietician and a strict workout regimen. Cormier weighed in at 238 for his last fight, a victory via decision over former UFC champ Josh Barnett in May.
“The last time I was 205 (pounds) was in 2001,” said Cormier.
Still, the odds of him making that cut are much better than the fight odds his upcoming opponent has received. Some sports books have Cormier as a 20-1 favorite against Staring, a Dutch fighter with a 28-7 record compiled in much smaller promotions.
“If I was a bookie, I wouldn’t be setting those kinds of odds,” Cormier said. “There should never be such a huge gap, especially when somebody has fought three times as much as I have.”
Cormier’s undefeated 10-fight resume may lack a single UFC bout, but that will change in the months ahead.
“Strikeforce gave guys like myself an alternative,” said Cormier, who transitioned from freestyle wrestling to MMA less than five years ago. “Some of us weren’t ready to fight in the UFC, but we still were able to train and compete at a high level in Strikeforce. Hopefully, now, we can put on a great show and let people remember it for what it did for all of us.”