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Daniel Cormier was doing his job as a UFC 261 commentator when it was brought to his attention that Jake Paul had just arrived, which was evident by the “F*ck Jake Paul” chant reverberating throughout Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena.
Moments later, Cormier looked behind him at the YouTube star-turned-professional boxer and was taken aback by what he saw.
“He’s like making faces at me and waving at me,” Cormier said Monday on his “DC & Helwani” ESPN show. “I’m like, what in the world is happening? What is happening? … This 24-year-old kid is heckling me. He’s heckling me. He’s like a troll but like a famous troll.”
Cormier said he knew right away that he couldn’t let Paul’s antics go quietly. All he could think to himself was, “This guy’s being so ridiculous. I need to tell him something.” So he asked his producers for a two-minute break before the pay-per-view went to air. Cormier didn’t give a reason, just that he needed two minutes to step away.
That’s when he dealt with the situation.
“So I just walk over there, and he kind of leans in like we’re gonna have a conversation, and his hands are in his pocket,” Cormier recalled. “I said, ‘Hey, I’m not gonna play your games. I go, ‘Don’t mess with me. I’m not a kid to play with like this. I’m not gonna be on the internet messing around and all this other stuff.’ I go, ‘Keep my name out of your mouth.’ Once the security and everybody got around, he started to play big boy a little bit, starts trying to point and do all that. But initially his hands are in his pocket and he kind of leans in.
“I said, ‘I’m not gonna play your game.’ I said, ‘You’re gonna get yourself hurt messing around. I’m not gonna fight with you and play these public shenanigans.’ I go, ‘Keep my name out of your mouth.’ He goes, ‘Well, you said my name first.’ Don’t play with me. I’m not a kid to be messing with like that.”
YouTube star Jake Paul is confronted by UFC commentator Daniel Cormier at UFC 261. (Jasen Vinlove, USA TODAY Sports)
The confrontation made unexpected headlines in the middle of UFC 261 after it was captured on video from multiple angles. It came a week after Paul’s TKO win over Ben Askren, which ignited a strong reaction from MMA fighters. That included Cormier, whom Paul quote-tweeted and called “fat boy.”
Cormier wanted to lay hands on Paul during their encounter but said he showed restraint before security even arrived.
“I wanted to grab his face. I was gonna grab him by the face, but I would’ve got in trouble by the UFC,” Cormier said. “Because listen, a kid like that, you alpha a kid like that. … I wanted to grab him by the face, smash him into the ground, but I can’t do that at work. That would get me into a lot of trouble.”
Cormier also laughed it off when he said Paul urged him to “sign the contract.”
“‘Sign the contract’? What are you talking about? There is no contract,” Cormier said. “You don’t punch down, but c’mon, dude. You can talk and act like that with certain people – not everybody.”
Plain and simply, Cormier’s decision to confront Paul was about respect, he said. As far as an actual fight is concerned, Cormier has no interest in boxing Paul – but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t partake in an MMA fight, which the retired former UFC dual champion said he’d be willing to at 205 pounds.
“Why would I go and box Jake Paul? Who I am doesn’t make me chase anything. I made my money as the heavyweight champion of the world. I don’t have to chase a payday,” Cormier said. “This kid wants to fight? OK, I’ll fight him. But it’ll be a mixed martial arts competition.”
He continued, “My name will not be used as a springboard. I love my legacy, and I will protect my legacy. And if protecting my legacy means I have to smack this kid upside his head, then that’s what I’ll do.”