For the first time in over four years, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will crown a new light heavyweight champion at UFC 187 on May 23, 2015 when Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson go toe-to-toe for the vacant strap.
That's because of former division kingpin Jon Jones and his recent hit-and-run accident (details), which led to him getting stripped of his belt and suspended indefinitely from competing inside the Octagon.
And while some (like former UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen) say you can't call yourself the champion unless you've actually defeated the champion, "DC" and "Rumble" don't see it that way, due to the fact that their championship fight came as a result of unforeseen circumstances.
During yesterday's (Wed., May 13, 2015) UFC 187 media conference call (full audio here), both Cormier and Johnson responded to some of the negative feedback they received -- and can expect to receive -- once a new champion is crowned.
"DC" offered up his comments first:
"Jon cast such a big shadow in the division. So, any time this weight class gets discussed, there is going to be some mention of Jon Jones. So, it's expected. Obviously for me, as I wasn't expected to fight for the championship. Anthony was already scheduled to fight for the belt, so he is obviously just getting what he was already promised when he beat Alexander Gustafsson. If anybody that should be asked the questions if the belt is real, it should be as I just fought for it and lost. He (Johnson) is only getting exactly what he was already promised after he earned it. It's not his fault something happened to his opponent outside of the Octagon that was so big that the fight couldn't go forward. It's not annoying for me because it's expected. If I was Anthony, I'd be a little annoyed because I'm only fighting for what I was promised for beating the No. 1 guy."
As far as "Rumble" is concerned, he is getting aggravated with all of the negative comments, reiterating that the situation Jones finds himself in is all on him. Also, the hard-hitting striker says labeling he or Cormier a "paper champion" is flat out disrespectful.
"As far as me, it does get a little annoying because people aren't showing the respect Daniel and I deserve. It's almost like they see as some chumps or something like that. Once again, we didn't make Jon do what he did, that was his own doing. We are athletes; we are top of the food chain right now and it is what it is. So, it does get kind of aggravating when people say, 'Oh you are the paper champ.' Things like that. In my eyes, in my heart, whoever wins this title isn't the paper champ. We are the absolute champion of the weight class, we are the best. So it can get aggravating. But, at the same time, people are going to say whatever they want regardless of outcome. So just keep moving forward and keep doing my best. I try not to pay attention to it, but it does get aggravating."
Are you going to have the guts to call him "paper champ" should he win the crown this Memorial Day Weekend in "Sin City?"