Daniel Cormier is now 15-0 as a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter.
The former Olympian just won his second fight at 205 pounds (fourth in a row in UFC), in a fight he truly dominated from start to finish over Dan Henderson at UFC 173 (replay here). At times he looked like "The Mountain" from Game of Thrones with the way he tossed Henderson around and dominated him during the fight. It was truly a sight to behold, seeing "Hendo" fly through the air, land on his back, and be controlled for 15 full minutes before finishing him off with a rear-naked choke in the third round.
"DC" was satisfied with his performance.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Cormier told MMAmania.com while taking a break from filming the next season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). "I'm very, very happy with the performance. I thought it went as well as it could have. Dan Henderson is a guy that I've always kind of looked up to. I guy I looked up to the way he fights, and to beat him in the fashion that I did was... I could not have asked for anything better. If I laid in bed at night and dreamt about how I wanted the fight to play out, that's what I would've wanted to happen, so I'm very lucky."
It was a bit of a surreal moment for the undefeated American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) fighter to step in there against a famous fighter like Henderson. "A week has passed and I still can't believe I was standing across the cage against him just a week ago," Cormier admitted.
"Fights like that, you earn fights like that against Dan Henderson, Frank Mir, Josh Barnett, you have to earn those fights and I've been getting them now, back-to-back-to-back," Cormier continued. "So I think it's time for me to stop being starstruck and in awe of these guys when we stand across the cage from each other and understand that it's where I belong fighting and it's where I'm going to be fighting for the rest of my career. At the end of the day it's a fight and I have to do what I'm trained to do."
After the fight it was revealed that the moment of being wowed by the presence of Hendo almost never happened. Only a week out from the fight, Cormier injured his LCL during training and almost had to pull out of the UFC 173 co-main event. During a wrestling scramble he "heard a pop" and was "hurt and very concerned." His coach, Bob Cook, came over his house to see him and when he witnessed him walk he "immediately called Joe Silva" to inform the UFC matchmaker about his injury.
"He said, 'Joe it's not looking good. We are not sure what we are going to do. We are going to wait until tomorrow to give you confirmation,'" Cormier recounted.
After going to a hyperbaric treatment center, Cormier said it "expedited the healing process" and he awoke the next morning to find he could walk on the leg again and all the swelling in his knee had subsided.
"I was sleeping on the couch because I couldn't sleep on the bed because I needed to keep my leg up. The next morning I just got up," Cormier said. "I literally just stood up off the couch and I was like 'I am 75 percent better.' So I hurt myself Tuesday, Wednesday morning I was up and I could walk, by Thursday I ran four and a half miles because it was in a straight line and the hyperbaric treatments and the physical therapy and everything else I did helped me. It was a very tough training camp. I threw my back out two weeks prior so I had to miss a week of training there. I hurt my knee so I missed a few days there. It was very tough for me and I was very scared because Dan Henderson is so good."
The announcement became official on Thursday evening that the Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson rematch is official, but prior to that, Cormier was quoted on UFC tonight as saying he would forego surgery on the knee he injured before the Henderson fight, if a title fight became a reality.
He wasn't happy with the headline that followed and he explained why.
"I didn't really like how the headline came out that I'm putting off surgery," Said Cormier, who competed in his first world championship at 16 years old. Anything is a surgery. Chris Weidman had surgery two months ago and he's fighting in a month. I was thinking maybe I need to get a scope and go get my knee kind of cleaned out. I wasn't thinking I needed a full blown surgery, but I did get another MRI today, so I'm going to see what the result is so I know how to proceed forward."
"I've got some issues with my knee, but we didn't know about them," he further explained. "So I've been competing for the last five years with some issues in my knee. This is nothing new to me. The LCL is new, but everything else that had happened is stuff that is existing."
"If I get a chance to fight for a title, you cannot turn that down. I can deal with a little bit of pain and discomfort to achieve my goals."
*Note: Interview was conducted prior to Jones vs. Gustafsson 2 announcement. Cormier was not able to be reached for a follow up and reaction.
Cormier was obviously excited when Dana White was quoted earlier in the week as saying Jones was asking to fight him, Cormier, instead of Gustafsson and said "I'm glad it's a possibility" and "I wish I could get a message to Jones and tell him thank you because this is something I lived for, for a really long time."
Of course, now Cormier will have to await the winner of the Sept. 27 match up between Jones and Gustafsson and that won't happen until probably the end of 2014 at the earliest. Then there is the possibility that "The Mauler" wins and they fight for a third time, which would force the former heavyweight to fight again as that would be a very long period of time in between fights.
In regards to Gustafsson or himself, Cormier said despite all the talk from fans and media, he feels that it doesn't cross Jones' mind that he could lose to either him or "The Mauler."
"I don't think for a second Jon Jones thinks I can beat him," said Cormier. "I gotta be totally honest with you, I don't think Jones thinks Alexander Gustafsson can beat him. I think that if they fight again he would beat Alexander Gustafsson. He fought Alexander Gustafsson when he wasn't held in the regard he is held today. A lot of people may have said 'you are going to walk through this guy.' Jon was very young and he is very young and he fell into a little trap. He have to consider his age and maybe he fell into a trap with the first Gustafsson fight and you saw what happened."
"At the end of the day, when it got tough and he needed to go and win that fight he did," he continued. "As fans of the sport, as fellow fighters, at the end of the day, when he had to and win that fight vs. Gustafsson in September, he did. We need to keep that in perspective as people that watch the sport. Just because you think it was a close fight does not mean that Gustafsson will beat Jones. Jon is not afraid of him, no way. I think if they fought again, I actually think he would win much more comfortably than he did the first time."
Cormier has been building the narrative on wanting a fight against Jones since after his first heavyweight victory over Frank Mir at UFC on FOX 7 (along with this) and was again outspoken about the UFC light heavyweight champion after his latest victory at UFC 173. There hasn't been much talk about X's and O's and how the fight would play out from either fighter, just the fans and media.
"DC" gives his take on the match up.
"I think I can outwrestle him," he said confidently. "Grappling from the top, I think I am a better grappler from the top than Jon. I don't land the elbows that he does, but I mean if I'm on top and he's under me, I think I can control him. In the stand up, I have efficient enough stand up there I can compete with him there. He will have some advantages. His length will be an issue. He's fought now three five-round fights, hard five-round fights. He's done the five-round thing quite a few times and he's also trained for more five-round fights than I have, so I'd say cardio would probably favor him based on the fact that he's done it before."
The undefeated fighter gave his number one reason why he thinks he will dethrone Jones if given the opportunity.
"I have a lot of advantages," Cormier said. "I think mentally, I am tougher than him and I think that may be what it boils down to. When I am in the Octagon with most people -- I think in terms of drive and determination -- I think there aren't many guys that are willing to do what I do in order to achieve my goal. I think Cain Velasquez may be the only one that can actually get his mind to the point that he will push himself and just keep moving in the direction that he needs to go on to to reach his goal. The problem is I haven't had to show it. You guys don't understand that aspect of my game because I haven't had to show it. When I do have to show it people will maybe appreciate it or hopefully appreciate it. I mean I haven't even had to really dig down deep in a fight and show that grit and determination that I will at some point in my fight career."
You can bet there will be more to this storyline in the coming months and if the two do get matched up the war of words between them will be interesting and exciting to follow up until the day of the fight. Cormier admitted his age and "competing at a really high level for a really long time" is leading to the "wear and tear" on his body, but he has everything he needs to one day hoist UFC gold.
"I got great coaches, great teammates, great family. I got everything needed in order to be a champion. All the chips are in place and now it's up to me to actually do the work."