UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier is itching to get back in the octagon. Unfortunately, he’ll have to wait until his body allows him to do so.
One week after pulling out of a main-event title defense against Jon Jones (21-1 MMA, 15-1 UFC) at UFC 197 later this month, Cormier (17-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) has completed stem-cell treatemt to help his injured leg. He said “rest and recovery” are keys to making a comeback.
Cormier was initially distraught over his withdrawal from the fight. Jones is the only person to defeat “DC” in MMA competition; then-champ “Bones” won a unanimous decision at UFC 182 in January 2015, and Cormier wanted nothing more than to win the grudge rematch and defend his title for a second time.
Cormier said it will all happen eventually, but not if he entered UFC 197 in less than an optimum state. That’s why he’s “at peace” with the decision to pull out of a scheduled fight for the first time in his career.
“It was the right thing to do,” Cormier told MMAjunkie. “I couldn’t have fought to the best of my ability under the circumstances. I wouldn’t have been my best. In order to fight Jon and beat Jon, I have to be at 100 percent. For all the issues we have and everything, I do respect who he is as a competitor. I do respect what he brings to the table. I need to be 100 percent if I’m going to beat this guy, so I’m at peace with my decision.”
Although Cormier won’t fight at UFC 197 and Jones instead meets Ovince Saint Preux for an interim title at the April 23 pay-per-view event at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena, the drama with “Bones” hasn’t stopped.
Cormier offered to help prepare Saint Preux for the fight. It was an offer he said he didn’t expect “OSP” to take him up on and was more meant to rile up his rival. Jones took the bait and said a victory for Saint Preux would be “the greatest day” of Cormier’s life.
Cormier, of course, denies that notion and is adamant he’s the only person he wants to see win against Jones.
“The social media stuff I put out, a lot of that was due to me just getting out of that procedure and still being on morphine,” Cormier said. “It is what it is. Jon and I have a real-life thing that we go through and we go through it. That’s just what it is. To say anything different would actually be a lie. What Jon and I have is real.
“I want to be the guy to beat him. Just the fact that he said that means he’s thinking about what I said about Ovince. That means enough to me. I really don’t care all that much about their fight. I don’t care about that stuff.”
Jones fights Saint Preux at UFC 197, and if he wins, he’ll set up a rematch with Cormier for later this year. Cormier said he needs approximately six weeks to return to full health and start a training camp, which in theory means he could be ready compete again in the summer.
Although Jones told MMAjunkie earlier this week that he would be open to fighting Cormier at July’s UFC 200 extravaganza, the lineup for the card seems to be nearing it’s final form and likely doesn’t have a place for such a significant matchup.
But if it’s not UFC 200, Cormier said he doesn’t want to wait much longer, especially for the UFC’s planned November debut in New York City. While fighting in the organization first event at Madison Square Garden would be a career accomplishment, it’s not something that holds much value to Cormier, who said he wants to fight Jones as soon as possible. Waiting another eight months is non-negotiable, he said.
“I don’t know when the next opportunity would be for us,” Cormier said. “I don’t know what the realistic thing would be. I don’t want to delay this thing very long. I hate the fact I had to delay it to begin with. I prefer to do it as soon as I can when I’m healthy.
“(New York is) way too far. I’m 37 years old. I need to be fighting. To have to wait all that time would be a little too much.”
For more on UFC 197, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.