After Cormier submitted Johnson in the third round Saturday night in Las Vegas to win the vacant UFC light heavyweight title, Johnson put the belt around Cormier's waist. "Rumble" was also extremely complimentary and classy in the post-fight press conference.
"I don't know exactly what to make of it," Cormier told Ariel Helwani on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "He's a nice guy and I think maybe he showed exactly how nice he is behaving in the way he did. A lot of times, losing a fight is tough. In your darkest hours, I guess your true colors show. And Anthony Johnson is made of gold if you ask me for the way that he handled that."
It was the polar opposite of what Cormier went through in his last fight with Jon Jones. The two men went at it verbally in every possible setting and things actually got physical in a press conference last August before they fought each other at UFC 182 in January. Jones won via unanimous decision, but even then he was not kind to Cormier on the post-fight dais.
Johnson, meanwhile, praised Cormier for "wrestling the hell" out of him Saturday night in front of the media. In strapping the belt around Cormier's waist, Johnson went above and beyond sportsmanship.
"He made my experience different," Cormier said. "By putting on the belt, he made my experience of being crowned a champion different than anyone else in the UFC's history. Nobody has done that. So thank you Anthony Johnson for making my experience different. I appreciate it and I appreciate you."
Johnson has had some troubles in his past, most notably pleading no contest to domestic violence charges in 2010. "Rumble" was also suspended last year by the UFC after he was accused of assault by a woman who claimed to be the mother of his children. Those claims were dismissed and the UFC reinstated Johnson.
Cormier never brought those things up in the lead-up to the fight, though he talked plenty about Jones' outside-the-Octagon issues. The former light heavyweight champion was stripped of the belt and suspended after a felony hit-and-run arrest April 27.
Cormier and Jones will likely fight again if Jones comes back to the UFC. Johnson also could get another shot at the belt, like he vowed Saturday night. In the meantime, Cormier has Ryan Bader and a host of other contenders he's never fought before.
"All these guys are in play now," Cormier said. "We'll see how long Jon's situation takes, even if he does come back. I win the fight against Jon, I win the rematch, I can still fight all these new guys."
Johnson dropped Cormier with a right hand in the first round and seemed close to finishing. Cormier, though, said he was never fuzzy and his vision wasn't blurred. After "taking a nap in the Octagon like Nick Diaz," Cormier was able to grab a hold of Johnson and wrestle him.
"This was not a right hand," Cormier said with a laugh. "This was a right missile. It was the fastest thing.
"My whole deal was, don't allow him to get the follow up shot. The follow up shot is what's going to put you out of this fight."
That never came. Cormier grinded Johnson out and then submitted him with a rear-naked choke in the third round. "DC" was happy about Johnson's kindness afterward, but also surprised how many people thought he'd lose.
"It's all matchups," Cormier said, "and I knew that I matched up well against 'Rumble' Johnson."