UFC 226: Dual champion Daniel Cormier in the conversation for greatest fighter ever

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Daniel Cormier celebrates after defeating Stipe Miocic in a heavyweight title mixed martial arts bout at UFC 226, Saturday, July 7, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP)
Daniel Cormier celebrates after defeating Stipe Miocic in a heavyweight title mixed martial arts bout at UFC 226, Saturday, July 7, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP)

LAS VEGAS – A right hand that traveled only a few inches Saturday made Daniel Cormier a legend. It’s also soon to make him an extremely rich man.

It would be easy to say that Cormier, now the second man to hold two UFC titles simultaneously after knocking out Stipe Miocic Saturday in the main event of UFC 226 to win the heavyweight belt at T-Mobile Arena, is one of MMA’s good guys.

Scroll to continue with content

He’s more than just one of the most decent human beings in mixed martial arts — or sports at large — for that matter. Cormier is a world-class human being, a thoughtful, classy, humble man who is as good (or better) to people who can do nothing for him as he is to those who can.

He’s able to make fun of himself – look at the video he willingly participated in when he danced shirtless to a parody of a Meghan Trainor song that was dubbed “It’s All About the Cake” – and has a great perspective on the sport and his role in it.

For some odd reason, he’s taken heat from fans who have routinely booed him at the fights and mocked him on social media.

He didn’t deserve that, not a single bit. It came from ill-informed people who didn’t know him personally and haven’t followed his journey to the top of his sport, which crescendoed Saturday night.

Cormier hit Miocic with a short right that put the big man down and quickly out. The punch made Cormier the only man other than Conor McGregor to hold two UFC weight-class titles at the same time. In addition, he became the fifth man in UFC history to ever win a title in two divisions, joining legends Randy Couture, B.J. Penn, McGregor and Georges St-Pierre.

After the fight, ex-UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, now a WWE star, came into the cage to challenge Cormier and created havoc. Cormier, a noted pro wrestling fan, took it all in.

He grabbed the microphone away from Joe Rogan in the cage and talked to the crowd.

As the fans were roaring for his win, he said, “Listen to DC! Listen to DC! There is a guy I’ve known a long time: A wrestler, an All-American, a former UFC heavyweight champion. Brock Lesnar, get your ass in here!”

Lesnar came into the cage, shoved Cormier, insulted Miocic, and just guaranteed a mega-payday for the both of them.

Cormier is going to retire in March, he insists, when he turns 40. He says he’ll defend his light heavyweight belt one more time, face Lesnar and then walk away from the sport he has dominated.

He’s in the conversation for the greatest fighter ever. Most would say it’s Jon Jones, who twice defeated Cormier, though one of them was overturned when Jones failed an anti-doping test. Others would argue for St-Pierre or flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson.

Cormier, though, is in that conversation.

“He’s one of the best of all-time,” UFC president Dana White said. “This was the right fight for him. If you think of his career, he steps down from heavyweight to go to light heavyweight because his friend [Cain Velasquez] was at heavyweight and he goes to 205 and has an incredible career down there. But there he has that Jones thing. Jon Jones, in my opinion, you’re talking if not the greatest of all-time, one of them. The potential that Jon Jones had, who knows what he could have done at heavyweight and everything else.

“But [Cormier] has the shadow of Jon Jones and he moves back up to heavyweight and knocks out the best heavyweight ever in UFC history. What this does is it gives him the respect he deserves. Now he’s a two-division champion and he has a big fight ahead of him. It’s a big fight and a big payday and it couldn’t happen to a better guy. He’s an incredible ambassador for the sport. I told Daniel, ‘If you’re my champion for the rest of my career, I’ll be a very happy man.’ ”

Cormier engenders that kind of respect from anyone who works with him regularly or knows him from more than just a few sound bytes or Twitter posts.

One of his coaches, Rosendo Sanchez, shoved Lesnar after Lesnar shoved Cormier, even though Sanchez is more than a foot smaller. He was sticking up for his guy.

Cormier had come up short in his greatest moments throughout his career, and he was better than a 2-1 underdog again on Saturday. But he stepped to the occasion and did what the great ones do: He delivered when the spotlight was the brightest and the pressure the most intense.

Daniel Cormier is now a UFC champion in two weight classes. (Getty Images)
Daniel Cormier is now a UFC champion in two weight classes. (Getty Images)

Fans had called him a fake champion after winning the light heavyweight championship when Jones was stripped, but they can’t call him that any more.

“Listen, for the people who called me a fake champion and said, ‘You’re not a real champion,’ you can’t question this one,” Cormier said, patting his heavyweight title belt. “Maybe they could question my light heavyweight title, to a certain degree. But I have something completely separate from him and I’m so thankful.

“Everything was tied to him, no matter how much I beat everyone else. There was always that, ‘Oh, you lost to Jones.’ But now I’m in a division that I never got to complete my division in, and now I’m one of the greatest of all-time. I love D.J. and I love GSP, and it’s going to be one of the three of us [who is the greatest ever].”

He’ll get a chance to cement his legacy with a win over Lesnar. The two have been rivals for a long time, but hadn’t competed previously, even though they’ve been around each other for years.

Cormier said he can’t get up for ordinary fights in his final two outings and wants only special fights that will earn a lot of money. He noted that when he defeated Alexander Gustafsson in a light heavyweight title defense, he made no money because the pay-per-view didn’t sell.

A fight with Lesnar will, and Cormier went right to work pushing it.

“I love [the WWE] and I think it’s great,” Cormier said. “Look, Brock Lesnar is the champion of the WWE. So when he comes over here, there’s no script. There’s no Vince McMahon saying, ‘D.C., lay easy on the punches.’ There’s no Braun Strowman who when Brock punches him hard doesn’t respond.

“He hits me and I’m going to get on his ass. He can get in that Octagon and be big and bad and talk, but when that cage door closes, he’s going to have to answer for his words.”

It was Cormier’s night, and he was enjoying it for all it’s worth. But true to the kind of guy he is, as he departed the post-fight news conference, he thanked the reporters for the way they’ve treated him.

He’s going to hit it big as he closes out his career, and there’s never been a better time to say it couldn’t be happening to a nicer guy.

More from Yahoo Sports:
Kyrie Irving never wanted LeBron to return to Cleveland in 2014
Here’s what the 2018 MLB All-Star teams should look like
Brazil’s hopes were dashed by World Cup’s dumbest rule
OSU sex abuse charge makes it clear that silence is a thing of the past

What to Read Next