Daniel Cormier didn't have to wait long to hear from Jon Jones. Cormier defended his UFC light heavyweight title with the performance of a lifetime against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 192, and afterward Jones was up to his old tricks.
The ex-champion posted -- then deleted -- a pair of videos to Instagram, one slyly reacting to Cormier's fight and the other hinting that he missed the game. Needless to say, after putting everything on the line in one of the year's most incredible wars of attrition, Cormier wasn't impressed to hear what his rival had to say.
"I'm just going to say, I hope that he was having fun," Cormier said in response on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I just hope he was just having fun and doing it knowing exactly what he was doing. Because if his thing is to do exactly what he was doing before, then how do we really expect this young man to change very much? So I hope he was doing it purposefully and saying, ‘guys, I can still rip you a little bit,' rather than that just being who he is at his core and he can't change it. Because like I said, if this situation here didn't really clarify things for Jon, then Jon's got some real issues.
"But let's hope that these things got clarified so that this guy can get back to doing what he's great at doing, and that's fighting. I want to fight him. I want to get back in the Octagon with that man, and I want to give people the fight they deserved to see from us the very first time. I want to give them five rounds of what they saw in rounds one, two, and three of Jon and I last time."
Cormier (17-1) memorably lost to Jones in January before Jones' hit-and-run accident turned the light heavyweight division onto its head. Jones was stripped of his title and ultimately sentenced to 18 months of supervised probation, but will avoid jail time and a felony charge if he can meet the terms of his plea deal, which include 72 speaking engagements to youth programs and schools.
In Jones' stead, Cormier has risen from the ashes to emerge as the clear ruler of the UFC's light heavyweight division.
The two-time Olympian dominated Anthony Johnson to claim the vacant UFC belt, then bested Alexander Gustafsson in an all-time classic on Saturday to defend it. Cormier's match with Gustafsson was a grueling affair, and at age 36, having already locked down a FOX analyst gig, Cormier himself wondered how many more of those battles he could endure in the aftermath of UFC 192.
"It's very hard to think about that stuff right now," Cormier said, "because it'd seem easy to say, ‘you know what, I don't really need this anymore. Financially, I'm fine. I've got a job that pays me well outside of the Octagon. I don't need it.' You start thinking like that, man, the other side starts to look pretty good.
"So I'll wait until my body starts to feel better and I feel good to know. But I know that I've got at least two fights that I have to have before I would ever retire anyways, so it's no good. The next fight, when I beat Jones. And then that third fight when him and I fight again. Jones and I will fight twice again, so until him and I fight two more times, I'm not going anywhere."
With Jones' legal situation finally settled, the road back to the UFC for the pound-for-pound great appears to be a formality.
The first match-up between Jones and Cormier pulled tremendous numbers on pay-per-view, and a rematch with the roles reversed and Jones in a comeback mode would likely draw one of the biggest receptions of 2016.
An obvious landing spot for the fight would be April 23 at Madison Square Garden for UFC 198. The UFC reserved the date as part of its ongoing lawsuit against the state's archaic laws which ban professional mixed martial arts. Jones is a New York native, and the first fight in the state would be a massive event for any involved.
But as Cormier explained on Saturday, staging the rematch in the one place where Jones would likely receive a hero's welcome is a reward he believes Jones doesn't deserve.
"I competed in wrestling at Madison Square Garden once and it was amazing. It was one of the greatest environments, just walking to the arena from the hotel was great," Cormier said. "But you look at a guy who is actually just coming back from all of the stuff that he has been through -- I know there are a pocket of people who say, ‘the guy is a great fighter and we don't care about anything else,' but the general idea in the world, in terms of human beings, they don't like seeing that. They don't like feeling like the one-percent got treated differently.
"In a lot of places around the world, he wouldn't be welcomed very favorably because of these actions. In New York, they might because he's one of their own. You know how New York fans are. They boo their own Knicks at times, but they're very loyal. You can hate the Knicks, but the Knicks have the most sellouts out of any team in the NBA. So they're very loyal. They would be loyal to Jon, too. He should have to face that, man. He should have to face that. He should have to walk out there the entire fight week with people telling him, ‘hey, you messed up and we're not sweeping this under the rug.'"