After the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Daniel Cormier was living in Stillwater, Okla., trying to determine what would be next in his life. He was selling advertising for a public access television station while mulling his future.
He began to host a wrestling coach's show on the channel, the first step in a not-so-long journey that led to Monday's announcement by Fox Sports that Cormier has been appointed the permanent co-host of UFC Tonight with host Kenny Florian.
Cormier steps in to replace Chael Sonnen, who was fired after failing two random drug tests and then lying about it.
It's a major step forward in his career, and one he hardly could have foreseen not that long ago.
"It's crazy to think what's happened," he said. "When you think of a TV station in a town of 50,000 people like Stillwater, I'm talking about public access TV. I was selling ad space and the guy came up to me and said, 'You know, Daniel, you actually do a pretty good job talking to people. Would you want to host a coach's show?' I said, 'I'll try it,' and I made a set. I took a square piece of cardboard – not actually cardboard, but like a shadow box – and we painted it the color of an international wrestling mat. We painted one the colors of Oklahoma State, one the colors of OU and another of Stillwater High School.
"We sat in front of a desk, and every week, the college coaches and the high school coaches would come in and I would sit and talk to them and interview them. We had a one-hour show where we'd break down the matches from the week before and then talk to the coaches. It was called 'On the Mat with Daniel Cormier and Ethan Kyle.' It was one camera on a tripod pointed at me and Ethan. That was my TV experience prior to Fox."
Cormier began working as a part-time analyst for Fox at UFC 155 on Dec. 29, 2012. He's done studio work, pre-fight, post-fight and weigh-in shows for Fox since.
He's excelled, along with Brian Stann and Dominick Cruz in particular, and deservedly got the nod to replace Sonnen as Florian's sidekick.
"We’re thrilled to have Daniel join the UFC Tonight team on a permanent basis,” Steve Becker, the coordinating producer for the show said. “He’s been working with us as an analyst and fill-in co-host for almost two years and has proven to be a natural talent in front of the camera, providing excellent insight and a fantastic personality."
The job will give Cormier an option to fall back on when his fighting career ends, but he's not thinking about that any time soon. Despite his enthusiasm for the job, he told Yahoo Sports on Monday he's first and foremost a fighter.
He loves his television work, but said fighting is what he does best.
"I'm on the cusp of something very special," Cormier said. "Januay 3 will be the culmination of a lifetime of competitive sport for me. Football, wrestling, everything I have done has led me to the MGM Grand [in Las Vegas] on Jan. 3 at UFC 182. The TV stuff is great, and I love doing it, but at the end of the day, fighting is what I do still.
"As I said before, sometimes it seemed like fighting became secondary for other guys when they made it on TV. That's not the case with me. Fighting is what I do. Fighting is what I love to do. Fighting is my present and TV is second. I love doing it, but there is more value to me sitting at that desk with the UFC championship than without it."
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