Why Daniel Cormier thinks fans will accept Conor McGregor when he returns

Kevin IoleCombat columnist

Conor McGregor made arguably the worst decision he’s ever made on April 5, when he brought 20 or so friends with him from Ireland to attack a bus at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn that held several UFC fighters.

McGregor was arrested and faces a felony for his role in the incident. He threw a dolly, among other things, at the bus in an attempt to provoke Khabib Nurmagomedov. The dolly shattered the window of the bus and glass shards cut lightweight Michael Chiesa’s forehead and caused a corneal abrasion to flyweight Ray Borg. Chiesa and Borg were removed from their UFC 223 bouts as a result of injuries they suffered due to McGregor’s actions.

If McGregor is convicted of a felony, he may no longer be able to legally enter the U.S., which would prevent him from fighting here. He’s going to have to pay significant amounts in damages to parties like Chiesa and Borg and his popularity as a fighter will undoubtedly decrease.

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But UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier doesn’t think the incident, as bad as it might have been, will be insurmountable for McGregor.

Daniel Cormier poses for photos during the UFC press conference inside Barclays Center on April 6, 2018 in Brooklyn, New York. (Getty Images)
Daniel Cormier poses for photos during the UFC press conference inside Barclays Center on April 6, 2018 in Brooklyn, New York. (Getty Images)

Cormier pointed to the example of his long-time rival, ex-UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, as a reason for believing McGregor can overcome the incident and regain his fan base.

“His behavior has been a tad bit erratic, and the one thing people don’t like is erratic behavior where they really don’t know what you’re doing next,” Cormier said. “But as we saw with Jones, it did not lead to people completely turning their backs on him. I think because of his ability to fight, and he’s such a special talent, people will accept him when he comes back.

“But they’ll be a little more leery of him because of that erratic behavior, he could go off the deep end at any time, as we saw in Brooklyn.”

Cormier was doing the media rounds Tuesday ahead of the debut of “The Ultimate Fighter: Undefeated,” which airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on FS1. He is a coach on the show opposite UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.

Since its inception in 2005, TUF has produced a steady stream of talent to the UFC, including 10 world champions. Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Michael Bisping, Robert Whittaker, Matt Serra, Tony Ferguson, T.J. Dillashaw, Nicco Montano, Carla Esparza and Namajunas all appeared on TUF and later became UFC champions.

Cormier said he thinks there are several fighters on the current season, which features lightweights and featherweights, who have star potential.

“These are good fighters and you’re going to notice that right away,” Cormier said.

The growth of mixed martial arts around the world has led to better talent on TUF. Cormier pointed to Dillashaw, who lost in the finals to John Dodson, as a fighter who developed after TUF.

But Cormier said the fighters are already more polished than they were.

“T.J. Dillashaw is a champion now and one of the best fighters in the world, but he seemed raw on the show,” Cormier said. “These kids today are way more developed at this point than some of the guys who are champions now.”

Cormier, who said he viewed his job as a coach as simply to add to what the fighters on the show already have, reiterated his previously announced position that he would retire by March 20, 2019.

Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier bump fists inside the UFC Performance institute on Feb. 2, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Getty Images)
Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier bump fists inside the UFC Performance institute on Feb. 2, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Getty Images)

He brought that up when asked what he would do if he defeated Miocic when they fight on July 7 in the main event at UFC 226 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. If Cormier defeats Miocic to win the heavyweight championship, he’ll become only the second fighter other than McGregor to hold two weight class titles simultaneously.

He said that after winning the belt, there may not be time for him to try to defend both belts given his agreement with his family that he would be retired by his 40th birthday on March 20, 2019.

Miocic is widely regarded as the best heavyweight ever, and he is not only an elite wrestler, but was a Golden Gloves boxer. Cormier, though, thinks that though Miocic is bigger, he’ll be able to win a stand-up battle.

“I won a stand-up fight against Alexander Gustafsson, who is taller than Stipe and who supposedly had this great, outstanding boxing,” Cormier said. “The guys at 205 are faster. Stipe is a fast guy for a heavyweight. You’ve got to say, ‘for a heavyweight.’ I just don’t think he’s as fast as some of the guys I’ve fought. Anthony Johnson is one of the fastest guys I’ve ever been in there with. He’s so explosive, so quick. I’m not sure many people across the weight classes can match that.

“So I’ve seen that type of speed. I’m not sure Stipe’s seen my type of speed up at heavyweight.”

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