Daniel Cormier: Sparring Cain Velasquez tougher than fighting Jon Jones

Daniel Cormier has faced the best of the best at both heavyweight and light heavyweight throughout the course of his mixed martial arts career, but the only person to best him as been interim champion Jon Jones.

Cormier holds wins over former champions like Josh Barnett at heavyweight and he’s taken out top contenders like Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson at light heavyweight, but Jones remains the lone blemish on his otherwise stellar record.

Despite Jones having the upper hand on him currently, Cormier still doesn’t see their rematch at UFC 200 as daunting of a task as what he deals with every day in the gym getting ready for the fight.

Unlike the last time they fought, Cormier has former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez back for this training camp. Cormier says that addition has proven not only that he can win the fight at UFC 200 but he’s already faced the best of the best and it’s not the guy he’s about to fight in the Octagon.

I still believe Cain’s the best heavyweight of all time. I believe Cain’s the best fighter I’ve ever been locked in a cage with. That is just true. I’ve been locked in the cage with Jones and Cain and sparring Cain was actually tougher than fighting Jones.

— Daniel Cormier

In the last camp when Cormier prepared for Jones, he had a litany of great training partners but Velasquez was sidelined due to injury and he couldn’t take part in his preparation.

So Cormier substituted Velasquez with former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold as his main sparring partner. As much as Cormier loves his longtime friend and teammate, there’s no replacing one of the best heavyweight fighters ever.

Cormier says Velasquez does things that no other fighter can do to him in a sparring session, and that’s what helps him get destroyed and then rebuilt into a better fighter everyday.

"I love Luke Rockhold," Cormier said. "He’s one of the greatest fighters in the world, but he does not have the best background for wrestling and he’s smaller than me. So there are times when I can just kind of be bigger than him and heavy for him and kind of bully him. I can’t do that with Cain. There are days where I’m just getting beat the whole time. I don’t get to win.

"When I go into a fight with Jon, I’ll know what it’s like to deal with adversity on a day-to-day basis. It’s amazing. I believe that’s one of the biggest factors going into this fight is having Velasquez around for my preparation and everything. I’m so confident. I’m so excited. I’m so ready to go. It’s unbelievable."

As much as Cormier wants to shut down Jones and avenge his loss from their previous meeting, the current light-heavyweight champion isn’t crazy enough to think this is going to be easy.

Cormier expects Jones to give him everything he can handle and more, but in the end he still sees his hand raised at the end of the night with the UFC title still wrapped securely around his waist.

"I’m very aware of who he is," Cormier said. "I think that’s the difference in the first fight and the second fight. I gained perspective. I’m aware who he is. He’s a tough guy. He’s a durable guy. To say I’m going to go out there and knock him out stiff, that would be a little crazy. But I know I can knock him out. I’m sure I can submit him if the fight goes to the ground.

"But if this fight goes to decision, which it likely will because we’re both really tough guys, I know that over the course of 25 minutes, I’m going to out work him, out hustle him and get my hand raised. I don’t care how it happens. I’m winning this fight."