UFC dual-division champion Daniel Cormier is slated to put his heavyweight title on the line opposite Derrick Lewis in the UFC 230 main event on Nov. 3 at Madison Square Garden. He admittedly wouldn't be fighting in New York had UFC officials tried to force him to give Stipe Miocic a rematch.
Cormier defeated Miocic, the UFC 's winningest heavyweight champion, at UFC 226 in July. Following the victory, his attention immediately shifted to Brock Lesnar, who plans to return to the Octagon in early 2019.
Having suffered a hand injury in the fight with Miocic, Cormier hadn't been planning to fight again until Lesnar's return and then intended to retire in March ahead of his fortieth birthday.
With officials at wit's end to find a worthy headlining bout for UFC 230, however, an offer that was too good to turn down came in to fight Lewis.
"I didn't think I was going to fight on this card, but the deal I got was so good," Cormier told ESPN recently. "There was no way I could say no, honestly. Especially with a guy like Derrick, who is not known for the best cardio. I've got to start fast and hope I can push harder than him, even with a short camp."
Though it made sense to Cormier to accept the fight with Lewis, he insisted there was no way that he would make an unexpected short-notice return to fight Stipe Miocic at UFC 230, much to the chagrin of Miocic.
"I would not have accepted a rematch against Stipe Miocic on short notice, he's too good under these circumstances," Cormier said. "I'm not saying Derrick isn't good, but Stipe is capable of beating me in different ways. He does different things well. I think in this fight, Derrick has to knock me out to win."
As for what comes next, Cormier still intends on retiring by March 20, 2019. But with the Lewis fight coming so soon, Cormier believes he'll get one more fight in the books before then.
Lesnar is still very much on the table, especially if he beats Lewis. Another option could be the winner of the UFC 232 light heavyweight title fight between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson.
Though Cormier currently holds that belt, he will be stripped if and when Jones and Gustafsson make it to the cage at year's end. Win or lose against Lewis, fighting the winner of Jones vs. Gustafsson could be another option for Cormier, especially since he has two losses to Jones (one that was changed to a no contest) that he'd like to avenge.
"Counting the Lewis fight, I think I'm down to two fights left," Cormier said. "Maybe this will be a blessing in disguise, the fact that I don't have a crazy, long fight camp to beat myself down. That may prolong it for me, but right now, I think I have this one and maybe one more. I can still fight in March and hit my retirement date. The one opponent that would matter to me most is Jones, because he's beaten me twice.
"The one that would mean more financially would be Lesnar. I think I would always pick the one that means more, but my wife might have something to say about that."