In the pursuit of making inroads towards Jon Jones -- or Glover Teixeira, should be defeat Jones at UFC 171 -- Daniel Cormier is taking on a lot all at once. Not only will he be fighting former champion Rashad Evans in his light heavyweight debut at UFC 170 on Feb. 22 in Las Vegas, but it will be his first main event under the UFC banner.
A main event means five rounds, rather than three. And five rounds, when cutting a bunch of weight -- and dealing with the uncertainty of that weight cut -- is sort of like eying the summit of Everest from base camp.
But Cormier, who appeared on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, is already troubleshooting some eleven weeks out from the fight. The first thing, he says, is using the next two weeks to whittle down into a 224-pound frame to begin his actual camp in San Jose. Right now he weighs 234 pounds.
Beyond that, as a life-long competitor, "DC" says he’s got things under control.
"I’ll be fine," he told host Ariel Helwani. "I feel very confident I’m going to be able to make that weight, and compete well."
Cormier plans to "eat clean" and keep his nose to the grindstone in incrementally dropping the weight with the help of his sponsor AutomaticBody.com by Nutrie. He also said he plans to use Aaron Simpson, the former UFC fighter, as a counselor in the ordeal. Simpson used to struggle to make middleweight in the UFC yet -- through advancements in weight-cutting technique -- ended up fighting as a welterweight. He also said he would reach out to Mike Dolce, the nutrition guru/lifestyle-changer who has faced far greater challenges than Cormier (people like Thiago Alves, for instance).
"I’m going to use everybody who can help me get this weight off and help me do it as safely as possible," Cormier said.
Besides the obvious intrigue of the high-ranked heavyweight Cormier debuting in a different weight class, there’s also the fact that he and Evans are setting aside their friendship to meet in the cage. Cormier and Evans have trained together in the past, and remain friends and colleagues on FOX’s coverage of the UFC. For Evans it’s the second fight in a row where he’s had to reluctantly sign on for friendly fire, having faced his FOX cohort Chael Sonnen at UFC 167.
Yet for Cormier, who is in essence fighting at 205 pounds to avoid a conflict with his AKA training partner and current heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, it’s a new kind of fight/friend compartmentalization. Even with a new contract with the UFC that he is "very, very happy" with, he’s going to have to make the most of an uncomfortable situation.
"It’s difficult," Cormier said. "[Rashad and I] talked a couple of days before when we were hearing that the fight was going to take place, and it was tough. We were like, ‘hey man we’re going to fight and put on a good show.’ But when you receive a bout agreement and you see a guy’s name on that bout sheet, it becomes a little different…because then it’s real.
"I care about him a ton, but now it’s time to get down to business and we got to go in that cage and I got to try and hurt him. I mean, I can’t go into the cage feeling like I don’t want to hurt my buddy. Because otherwise he’s going to hurt me, and beat me, and that will set me back and keep me from attaining my goals."
Cormier’s ultimate goal is to fight for the light heavyweight strap. Should he get by Evans he will have about as good an argument as anybody out there not named Alexander Gustaffson to fight Jon Jones next. Everybody by now knows that Cormier and Jones are not exactly on the best of terms, and that Cormier is chomping at the bit to do something about it.
There’s a hitch. Cormier says he doesn’t expect to face Jones for the belt, but Teixeira, the challenger he advises people to not fall asleep on.
"I think [Glover]’s going to win," Cormier said. "He’s a big, tough, strong guy, he can wrestle -- he presents a lot of problems that Jon faced in Alexander Gustafsson. Glover’s got to be 6’3", so, big guy too who presents a lot of them same problems."