It was a historic evening as Daniel Cormier, the man who originally wasn't even supposed to be in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament, waltzed into the cage, where he picked apart his opponent, the veteran Josh Barnett, for five full rounds en route to a unanimous decision win at Strikeforce: "Barnett vs. Cormier" in San Jose, Calif., on Sat., May 19, 2012.
Not so fast.
Cormier still has one fight left on his Strikeforce contract and, apparently, the promotion expects him to honor it. During a visit with HDNet's "Inside MMA," the new champion was asked who he thinks his next challenger might be.
To put it bluntly, he has no idea:
"Yeah, it's gonna happen this year. All my intention is to fight again, before the end of 2012. I have no idea who it's gonna be. There's a whole bunch of quality heavyweights over at the UFC. But, outside of those guys, I just cannot imagine who it would be. It's gonna be difficult for them to convince someone to come over and fight in Strikeforce. I think a lot of those guys have fought at the highest level of the sport and wouldn't wanna actually, in essence, take a step back. But if they do, I'll be waiting, ready and ready to scrap. Whoever they send over, I guarantee we'll put on a good fight, and you know, we'll mix it up."
If what Cormier said is true, it's a decision that is, quite frankly, baffling. The Strikeforce heavyweight cupboard is all but bare.
Who's left? Herschel Walker? We'll keep you posted on how that turns out.
In the meantime, while the Zuffa brass plot over what to do with the newly minted belt holder, Cormier is doing his best to just enjoy the moment:
"It's been unbelievable. You see I brought the belt. We travel together, we go everywhere together. I haven't left her for one second, since I got her on Saturday night. It's been amazing. I'm just kinda taking it all in, and we're gonna see what happens next. The crazy thing about looking at this belt is these names. These are all guys I've looked up to, at some point in my career, in their careers. Even when I was just wrestling. I mean, it's unbelievable that I'm the guy that walked away with that tournament, even to me, and I'm the one that actually in the cage, competing for the championship. It's unreal."
After their fight, Barnett made it known (in his post-fight interview) that he had broken his left hand in the first round. Apparently, "The Warmaster" wasn't the only fighter who incurred a battle scar during the tough championship bout.
Cormier discussed his injury and how he plans to take care of it, once and for all:
"Yeah, it's the same thing. I had a slight fracture again. The first time, I broke it, in September, and in December, I broke it again. My hand started healing at an odd angle. It started healing up like this (makes 'A-frame' shape with two index fingers). When it happens that way, it's actually easier to re-break. I really wanted to get into the fight. I wanted to fight. I wanted to make it happen. So, I just went out there and I fought. Now, I just kinda slightly re-fractured it. But, to play it safe, I don't wanna be out for eight months again. I'm gonna have a surgery, get it fixed and, afterwards, it's back to work."
In the waning moments of the interview, Cormier watched and analyzed some of the footage of his championship winning fight. In particular, he critiqued one of his massive, head-over-heels slams, to which he credited his former wrestling coach, the famous Kevin Jackson:
"That's Kevin Jackson all the way, right there. I owe all that technique to Coach Jackson, my mentor and idol. He calls it: 'get in the corner on a high crotch.' Running the pipe, throwing the outside hand and just really getting strong with a guy. I always heard, 'Get strong with 'em! Get strong with 'em!' I did with Josh. Josh tried to roll underneath, so I just let him go, and he just fell on his back."
With each fight, Cormier continues to build on his base and prove that he's not just a wrestler. Not even close. The future looks bright for the former NCAA Division I and Olympic wrestler. Fans worldwide would love to see what he can do against the best and brightest in the UFC.
For now, it looks as though they'll have to wait.