If there’s an ounce of fear living inside of Daniel Cormier’s head, it’s hidden away in a deep, dark crevice that hasn’t been seen for years because the former two-time Olympian isn’t about to act like he’s somehow scared of Jon Jones now that he’s finally landed a title shot against the champion in September.
For the better part of the last two years — even before fighting at light heavyweight — Cormier has talked about being the man to beat Jones when they finally stepped into the Octagon together. The two fighters traded barbs in interviews and even via Twitter, but until a fight is scheduled you can never guess how they might react without knowing the showdown is actually just around the corner.
Cormier finally received the call following an unfortunate training accident that left Alexander Gustafsson with an injured knee, putting him out of his scheduled rematch against Jones at UFC 178. With the bout agreement in hand, Cormier didn’t suddenly start talking nice about Jones or become his best friend on Twitter.
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In fact the day the fight was signed, Jones sent Cormier a message and the top ranked contender responded in kind although his tweet was much more public. He’s even got a walkout shirt already made and ready to go for the fight that reads "Break Bones."
Cormier would gladly tell Jones the exact same thing when they meet face to face, and whether the champion is rattled or angered by his words doesn’t matter much to the former Olympian.
It’s about beating the guy. The guy that’s defended the belt seven times, the guy that’s widely considered the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. You beat that guy and you become the man
— Daniel Cormier
As a matter of fact, Cormier wants Jones to be as motivated as possible heading into this fight that way when he loses there’s no excuses about why it happened.
"I think he’s aware of everything that we’ve been doing, but does it benefit me? No," Cormier told FOX Sports. "Rashad Evans got under Jon’s skin and we saw the best Jon we’ve ever seen. I work in the media now and I research these fights and I found out that Jon trained harder than he ever had before because Rashad annoyed him so much. So in a sense it may have backfired for Rashad.
"For me, I’m glad that he’s mad. I want him to train hard because I want to beat the best version of Jon Jones that’s ever been inside the Octagon."
This fight is ultimately about the UFC light heavyweight title and a goal Cormier has set for himself ever since a weight cutting disaster robbed him of the chance to compete for an Olympic medal in 2008. Cormier came close to being the best in the wrestling world, but never got the chance to claim the top spot. Now he stands as an undefeated professional fighter who has never lost a round, much less a fight and he doesn’t plan on allowing Jon Jones to be the one to take that away from him.
"Being the UFC champion means everything to me," Cormier said. "It will be the culmination of my entire athletic career. From high school champion to NCAA All-American to Strikeforce champion, it would be the culmination of everything. Everything coming together and when I’m done and look back, I can actually say I got it done."
The title will be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but the journey to get there goes through one of the best fighters the sport has ever seen. Jones has been an absolute wrecking machine since coming to the UFC and until he went five rounds with Alexander Gustafsson last year, a failed armbar attempt from Vitor Belfort was just about the only time the champion has even showed a dent in his armor.
That invincible aura that Jones carries around is why Cormier is happy he got this fight right now. Winning the belt is important, but being the person to finally crush Jones inside the Octagon is an even bigger accomplishment when taking a step back and looking at the whole picture of what this fight means.
"It’s bigger," Cormeir said. "Look at Chris Weidman — Chris Weidman is a star now because he beat Anderson Silva. T.J. Dillashaw’s profile has just sky rocketed and he beat Renan Barao, who hasn’t even caught on with the general fans in the U.S. yet. It’s about beating the guy. You can beat the other person or you can beat the champion, but you have to beat the guy.
"The guy that’s defended the belt seven times, the guy that’s widely considered the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. You beat that guy and you become the man."
Cormier loves to quote a famous phrase from professional wrestling icon Ric Flair quite often when he says "to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man" and that’s exactly what he’s planning to do at UFC 178. There’s no doubt creeping in his mind, infecting his training camp as he prepares for the biggest fight of his career.
Supreme confidence is what Cormier carries around like a weapon, and on Sept. 27 he’s going to hit Jones over the head with it again and again until he falls over and the referee stops the fight.
"I know the way to beat Jon Jones," Cormier said. "I know that I can beat Jon Jones. I don’t know if I can explain to somebody how to beat Jon Jones, but I know with the skill set that I have and the mentality that I have, the drive that I have and the determination, I can beat Jon Jones. Right after that I want to be No. 1 pound-for-pound."