Daniel Cormier expects Ryan Bader to be his first title defense as the UFC light heavyweight champion. He just doesn't know what has gotten into the perennial ranked fighter.
During the UFC 187 post-fight press conference Saturday night, Cormier was talking trash about Bader when Bader came to the front of the room to confront him. Cormier and Bader had been going back and forth on social media and in interviews for about a week and things nearly came to a head in the MGM Grand ballroom.
"Ryan is learning from the Conor McGregor playbook of building a fight," Cormier told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "What is up with Bader? I don't mind Ryan Bader thinking he deserves a title shot. I understand. Ryan, through the process of elimination you're pretty safe, buddy. You don't have to come and interrupt a press conference."
Cormier won the vacant title by beating Anthony Johnson by third-round submission Saturday night. Before all that, though, Cormier blasted Bader at a media last week in Los Angeles, saying he was trying to jump the line in the division. Bader responded on Twitter and Cormier let him have it again at UFC 187 open workouts last Wednesday.
It all nearly culminated in a press-conference skirmish, something Cormier knows all about since he got in one with Jon Jones last August. UFC senior vice president of public relations Dave Sholler had to hold Cormier back on the dais. A security guard intervened by grabbing Bader, who was eventually escorted from the building.
"I think after I beat Ryan Bader, he should have to go get beat up by Anthony Johnson for being so disrespectful to Anthony Johnson," Cormier said. "Because he was acting as if I beat Anthony before we even fought. He's calling me for a title shot and I'm like, 'Hey I gotta worry about Anthony Johnson. I'm over here worried about Anthony and you're trying to call me out.' That right hand that Anthony Johnson about knocked me out of the Octagon with Ryan Bader would have not gotten up from and I think that's his punishment."
Cormier (16-1) fell to Jones via unanimous decision at UFC 182 in January, but that remains the only loss on his record during stints in the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions. Bader (19-4) is the most logical next title contender. He has won four straight with recent wins over Phil Davis (now with Bellator) and Ovince Saint Preux.
Cormier, 36, said he respected Bader, because they're both wrestlers. Cormier is a former Olympian and Bader a former All-American out of Arizona State. But Cormier's feelings have changed about "Darth."
"If Ryan has fought all these guys and he's lost to them, how all of a sudden does he just think miraculously he's gonna match up so well against me?" Cormier said. What's he gonna do?
"Now there's no respect because the way you handled the situation. Bader talked about he wants to kick my ass if 'Rumble' doesn't do it Saturday. But who's ass is he kicking?"
There's a relatively slim chance that Jones, the former champ, will return to face Cormier any time soon. Jones was stripped of the belt and indefinitely suspended after his felony hit-and-run arrest April 27. Now, Jones, regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, is waiting to see if the Bernalillo (N.M.) County district attorney will bring his case to a grand jury.
It's unclear as to when it will be, but Bader seems like the first logical title defense for Cormier.
"Ryan Bader, you're next, bud," Cormier said. "You're gonna get exactly what you wanted, exactly what you asked for. I hope you make a good fight of it, because if you don't you're gonna get embarrassed."
In all, though, Cormier credits Bader for getting people talking, which he has not necessarily done in his UFC career, which started as a castmate on The Ultimate Fighter 8.
"Ryan Bader has done something so phenomenally spectacular," Cormier said. "He's gotten everyone to talk about him. It's unbelievable that Ryan Bader's name is coming off of someone's tongue. I saw somewhere today Ryan Bader is actually going on a radio show. I don't think that's ever happened in all this time that Ryan Bader has been fighting and he did it by interrupting my moment.
"Hats off to Ryan Bader. He must be talking to McGregor or something. McGregor has got him. He's the teacher."