If not for what Daniel Cormier has accomplished, if not for what he has meant to this company and this sport, this would have been an outrageous decision, one to truly be angry about.
The heavyweight championship has been on mothballs for six months and counting because the UFC opted to wait to see if a guy who has one more positive drug test than victories in the past eight-plus years wanted to give it one more shot.
UFC president Dana White told Yahoo Sports he hadn’t spoken to former UFC heavyweight Brock Lesnar and vehemently denied reports he had a Cormier-Lesnar fight made. He said Cormier has been inactive since defeating Derrick Lewis at UFC 230 because of a back injury that required surgery.
White confirmed an ESPN report Tuesday that Lesnar said he was retiring from MMA. He said Cormier, who recently got back into the gym, would fight ex-champion Stipe Miocic when he is fully healthy.
Let’s be honest here: Lesnar’s entrance into the mix mucked things up. He didn’t deserve a shot at the heavyweight title, plain and simple.
He didn’t deserve to be invited into the Octagon on July 7, 2018, only moments after Cormier knocked out Miocic at UFC 226 to win the heavyweight title and become only the second “champ-champ” in UFC history.
Lesnar hasn’t won since he defeated Shane Carwin in Las Vegas on July 3, 2010. Oh, he sort of won in 2016. He won a unanimous decision over Mark Hunt at UFC 200 on July 9, 2016, but it was changed to a no-contest because he failed his drug test.
Miocic, who going into the fight had been widely regarded as the greatest heavyweight in UFC history, had to wait out not only Cormier’s injury but also whether Lesnar would return to the UFC and jump the line.
That should be outrageous, but it’s not because it was Cormier who wanted the fight. Cormier, a big-time pro wrestling fan, wanted the massive payday he knew Lesnar would bring. And it was the big kid in Cormier, the guy who is a fan, who thought it would be cool to get the chance to fight one of the WWE’s biggest stars of recent times.
Cormier deserved that because of all he’s done for the sport and for the promotion which employs him.
He’s fought anyone and everyone, not only never ducking an opponent but doing whatever the UFC asked in order to save a show.
Has anyone faced better competition than Cormier? Well, MMA fighters are known for taking tough fights, but look at this list of Cormier opponents and you’ll agree few have faced more elite opponents than Cormier has:
Jon Jones, twice.
Anthony Johnson, twice.
If you’re keeping track, that’s two guys over three fights who were considered the greatest of all time at one point in their careers, as well as three one-time UFC heavyweight champions, a UFC light heavyweight champion, a UFC middleweight champion, a PRIDE middleweight champion, a Strikeforce middleweight champion and an IFL heavyweight champion.
Heck, Cormier early in his career defeated Lucas Browne, a guy who would briefly hold the WBA boxing heavyweight title.
Beyond his greatness in the ring, Cormier has been as good an ambassador for the sport of mixed martial arts and for the UFC as anyone could have hoped. He’s an insanely talented broadcaster whose work helped educate fans on the sport’s nuances. His infectious enthusiasm also helped to create new fans.
After all Cormier has done, he deserved the chance to fight Lesnar if he wanted to do so, and White was right to see that, even if it meant ultimately being played by Lesnar. Whenever Lesnar’s WWE contract was up, rumors would bubble to the surface that he was yet again considering a return to the UFC. That gave him leverage and helped him in his contract talks with the WWE.
White said he believes Lesnar used the threat of the UFC again to extract a massive deal from the WWE. White said he heard Lesnar received the largest deal ever given to a WWE wrestler.
He, too, is an important part of MMA and UFC history. One will always be left to wonder how good Lesnar may have been in MMA had he been fully healthy. But he never really was, and was continually plagued by intestinal problems that limited his ability.
Let’s agree, though, that we’ll no longer play this game. Lesnar will be 42 in July and even if he decides somewhere down the line he has the itch to fight — which seems unlikely — we’ll regard him like any other heavyweight who hasn’t fought in at least three years and who hasn’t won an official bout in nearly a decade.
Cormier deserves that kind of consideration, and he deservingly got it.
Let’s move on from Lesnar and never forget that Cormier-Miocic II was always going to be a far better fight than Cormier-Lesnar.
Lesnar had his time, but it’s long since past, and it doesn’t make sense any more to allow him to tie the division up for so long.
Move on from him, and the sport, and the division, will be the better for it.
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