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Daniel Cormier: 'I don't feel bad for Alexander Gustafsson at all'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

If anybody knows about making the most of opportunities, it’s Daniel Cormier, the man who on Monday was announced as the new co-host of the television show UFC Tonight.

Cormier will now sit alongside Kenny Florian on the weekly show, which airs Wednesdays on FOX Sports 1. And he came into the gig in large part because the previous co-host, Chael Sonnen, was fired after the very public UFC 175 drug test fallout. Cormier, who had filled in on guest spots and on other FOX platforms before, stood out among the carousel of auditioning current and former fighters for the job.

Just as he stood out in the Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix in 2012. Cormier started the tournament as an alternative, but when Alistair Overeem was removed/pulled out from competition, Cormier came in and defeated Antonio Silva (in the semis) and Josh Barnett (in the finals) to win it. He was the 11th man in an eight-man tournament.
Yet he found his way in and took it from there.

And even Cormier’s behemoth light heavyweight title shot against Jon Jones came together in a roundabout way. In this case, it was an injured knee suffered by Alexander Gustafsson ahead of their rematch, which was slated for UFC 178. When Gustafsson had to withdraw, Cormier was then booked in his place. On Aug. 4, when Jones and Cormier came together for their first press conference to promote the new fight, it just so happened that they engaged in a wild brawl, which served to ratchet up the anticipation level to something like "must see." 

So much so that when Jones had to postpone the fight a week later due to a leg injury suffered in training, the UFC never considered re-slotting Gustafsson into the title shot. It was Cormier and Jones, and it was rescheduled for Jan. 3.

If you think Cormier feels bad for the passed-over Swede in this scenario, think again. Cormier appeared on the Monday edition of The MMA Hour and said that fighting is a game of chance, and the cards just fell his way.

"It’s circumstance, man," he told host Ariel Helwani. "A lot of things come down to circumstance. This job [with UFC Tonight], circumstance. The fight with Jon, it’s circumstance. You know, like me winning the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix, circumstances. Sometimes things come down to the person that’s willing to step up when an opportunity if presented. I did."

Cormier said that the feud between him and Jones escalated faster and bigger than he knew was possible, and that’s part of the circumstance that goes into him retaining his title shot.

"Did we know, [either] Jon and I, that it would be so electric? No," he said. "It’s taken on a life of its own and now it’s like he can’t get back in his place.

"But no, I mean, I’m not going to feel bad for him now, and I’m not going to feel bad for him when he’s waiting at the end of 2015 to fight for the title, because I’m going to win and then Jones is going to get a rematch. So, it’s like, Alexander Gustafsson, he was the victim of circumstance. But no, I don’t feel bad for him at all."

Part of what sold everyone on Cormier-Jones beyond the MGM Grand brawl was the leaked video of the two having a raw back-and-forth afterwards. That was the exclamation mark on a crazy media day, caught when they didn’t know the cameras were still rolling.

As to how he views that footage now, Cormier said that though it the feud is real, it was not representative of either man in the larger picture.

"It’s pretty cringe-worthy, actually," he said. "Because you don’t really want to present yourself in that way. You don’t want to be…because Jon and I, above all, we’re family men and we’re fathers. We’ve got kids. You don’t really want to be portrayed like that -- that’s not who we are at the bottom of it.

"But you know man, sometimes when it’s real and you have a genuine dislike for someone, you can’t control it…you can’t control it."

UFC 182 happens Jan. 3 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

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