Ahead of his heavyweight world title defense this Saturday at UFC 241, it feels like Daniel Cormier (22-1-1) is at long last getting more appreciation for being an all-time great. I don’t think it’s enough.
What needs to be said — written and shouted, if necessary — about Cormier is that after a remarkable 10-year career, he’s built a legacy that ensures he should take a backseat to no one. Not to fellow future Hall of Famer Stipe Miocic (18-3) who Cormier rematches this weekend in Anaheim, California, and not to Jon Jones (25-1).
The two-time Olympic wrestler has beaten five (at the time) current or former MMA world champions, the same number Jones has. Cormier is a two-weight-class world champion, and never even lost his light heavyweight title in the cage.
Cormier knocked out the heavyweight champion who holds the record for most successful consecutive title defenses at the class, Miocic, inside of one round. The American Kickboxing Academy fighter is also the only UFC fighter to have ever successfully defended world titles in more than one weight category.
Cormier is so far undefeated at heavyweight in 14 fights, and he’s beaten the best light heavyweight contenders the world has had to offer. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy beat Alexander Gustafsson without controversy years before Jon Jones could.
Cormier also faced and finished perhaps the most dangerous contender the light heavyweight division has ever seen in Anthony Johnson, twice. Jones managed to never even face Johnson once.
Back in 2015, Jones won an impressive decision over Cormier after a competitive fight, yes. Jones found a way out of their 2016 scheduled rematch and then got away with using banned performance-enhancing drugs when he eventually faced Cormier again in 2017.
Jones fought Cormier with the assistance of banned performance-aiding drugs in his system in 2017, and his “win” was rightfully erased from the record books. Since then, Jones has continued to be allowed to train and fight with banned substances in his system and given a pass on it by the UFC, and its privately paid drug tester, USADA.
Jones is such a problem regarding banned substances that the UFC recently moved an entire pay-per-view event on short-notice to a more lax state when Nevada was unable to grant him a license to fight because a pre-fight drug test found the anabolic steroid Turinabol in Jones’ system.
In any case, head-to-head matchups are a large part of a fighter’s legacy. Jones, the much larger, much younger man, may very well always have an advantage over Cormier, even with his repeated PED drug test failures, in head-to-head matchups.
That doesn’t mean that Jones has necessarily accomplished more than Cormier, however. In fact, Jones seems unwilling to even try to aspire to Cormier’s level in that regard.
Jones has been up front in saying that he won’t attempt what DC has — fighting at heavyweight — telling Dan Hardy on his podcast that the reason is because Cormier would have advantages over him, there.
“I’m a realist,” Jones told Hardy last year.
“Daniel Cormier is a special athlete, and anyone can be beat. I think my greatest chance of losing would be to a guy like Daniel Cormier. We’d be giving him a power and strength advantage over me — it just doesn’t make sense.
“It would just make no sense to fight a guy who, I think, technically [is] on your level and to give him a size advantage … that’s just me being a realist.”
To be clear, Cormier is five inches shorter than Jones, and “Bones” has over a 12-inch reach advantage over DC. Beyond that, Cormier is nearly a decade older than Jones.
Cormier has made a career out of daring to be great and refusing to be satisfied. After making the U.S. Olympic wrestling team twice, he eschewed the retirement and coaching path and instead ventured into the unknown of MMA.
For the past 10 years, Cormier has almost exclusively fought younger, much larger opponents. Now, at 40 years of age, he continues to challenge himself, facing the biggest tests he can, literally and metaphorically.
Cormier’s titles and sterling record are a part of what makes his legacy great. His bravery and eagerness to fight battles where the odds are against him are what make his legacy peerless.
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