When opportunity knocks you answer it. Unfortunately for Daniel Cormier, his knee wouldn't let him walk to the door.
Cormier and Jon Jones were scheduled to fight for Cormier's UFC light heavyweight championship at UFC 197, a championship which Jones never lost in the cage and which many people view is rightfully his. Cormier had to withdraw from the bout due to injury. In an interview with Brian Stann on SiriusXM Rush, Cormier talked about why he was so hesitant to withdraw from his fight with Jon Jones.
"As you've said, I've never pulled out of a fight before and there was a lot that went into this decision. Because I truly do believe, and I think this is why it was so hard to actually make the call, because I truly do believe that right now is when he's primed to get beat."
Cormier bases this hypothesis off of several of the outside factors surrounding Jones return, namely the time off and the new standards implemented during his suspension.
'With everything that, all the factors. The first time under USADA testing, meaning no more rehydration IV wise. Meaning that he's been away from the game for a little bit. People kind of harp on the fact that it's been a year since he's fought, a year and a half, that's not the thing. Jon Jones has only fought me and Glover Texeira in 2 years. In 2 years, he's had 2 fights. Right now, I thought, right now is the time that he's ready to get beat if there ever was a time. So it made for a tougher decision because, in April of 2014 he fought Glover and then he fought me in January and he hasn't fought since.'
As Cormier notes, this will be Jones first fight back in over a year and only his second fight since 2014. The fear of "ring rust" is a legitimate concern. Moreover, in Jones's absence the rules have changed slightly, most notably the use of IVs to rehydrate fighters after weigh ins will no longer be an available option. During his suspension, Jones dedicated himself to some serious weight lifting, and though it is just speculation from Cormier, it is entirely plausible that this bulking will make the weight cut more difficult and the lack of IVs an important factor.
Somewhat surprisingly, Cormier didn't mention Jones's recent legal troubles as possibly negative factors on Jones's performance. In a sport requiring as much mental focus as MMA, Jones's recent arrest could be viewed as a major distraction yet Cormier made no mention of this. Even more surprisingly, when he did speak on Jones's struggles it was to agree with Jones.
'In that instance, I do believe that there was a little more to it than just maybe him drag racing... And you know I don't generally like to agree with anything that Jones does, but in that situation I do believe there was way more to that than what's led to be. And when they go to court, I think it's going to come out. But the fact that this guy's history is starting to come out shows the fact that there are some more things underlying the situation.'
The history of racial profiling accusations made against the officer who pulled over Jones has become a key topic in the past few days and has added another layer to the legal drama surrounding Jones. Perhaps Cormier's inclination to side with Jones in the matter prevented him from commenting on the effect Jones's legal troubles would have on his preparation or perhaps he just truly doesn't think it will have an effect. Regardless, Cormier was adamant that the confluence of events surrounding Jones's return makes him as vulnerable as he has ever been.
"So the time away. First time not dealing with the hydration through IV. First time under such strict testing with USADA.All these factors play it to me like ‘man I've gotta get him in the octagon right now as I think this is the time that he's ready to get beat."
Unfortunately for Cormier, that opportunity is now gone. Instead, Jon Jones will fight Ovince Saint Preux for the interim light heavyweight championship on April 23. The winner of that bout will go on to face Cormier in a unification match later this year. Which means if Jones wins, Cormier will lose some of the edges he envisioned himself having and have to beat a full-bore version of Jon Jones.
Daniel Cormier may have missed a golden opportunity.
5 MUST-READ STORIES
Coming clean. The fight between Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson was canceled after Machida admitted to taking a banned substance.
Moving on up. With the cancellation of the Machida-Henderson bout, Rose Namajunas vs. Tecia Torres becomes the new co-main event at UFC on Fox 19.
At last. New York Governor set to sign bill legalizing MMA in the state on Thursday.
Near death. Dada 5000 talks about the near catastrophe at Bellator 149.
And another one. Holly Holm says it is very possible the UFC is waiting to book her for a rematch with Ronda Rousey.
EXTRA CREDIT READING
Relentless pressure. Jack Slack of Vice gets in depth on the brilliance of Khabib Nurmagomedov.
He ain't dead yet. Todd Martin of Sherdog.com talks about the premature burial of Junior dos Santos's career.
Listen to Firas Zahabi break down fights and learn something.
GSP doing an interview at the Raptors game. Seems like he really is going to come back.
Joanna Champion is a delight.
Compilation of Khabib Who Wrestles Bears training. If he can avoid injury his rematch with RDA with be amazing.
Aaron Pico is a 19 year old prospect signed to Bellator who, this past weekend, came as close to humanly possible to qualifying for the Olympics without actually qualifying. He's a blue chip MMA prospect with an enormous future. Watch him overcome a 9-0 deficit at the Olympic Trials.
They non-ironically refer to Joe Yager as the number 77 ranked light heavyweight in the world. Which when you think about it is actually very legit.
One of the best podcasts in the fight game and this week Luke Thomas joins. And they talk about the man himself, Khabib Nurmagomedov. Brilliant stuff.
Press Row is must listen to stuff for all fight heads.
Headlined by an interview with Patricio Freire.
Machida posted to Instagram about the happenings.
I'm here to tell you that I was caught by surprise by this news. It has been very dificult for me. I've trained a lot for this fight, I've dedicated a lot with all my team mates. I want to tell you that I really didn't know about this substance, so I listed it on my declaration form amongst everything else I was taking, and this substance was recently banned in 2016, so I take the blame for not knowing that, and I'd like to say I'm really sorry and apologize to my fans, team mates, and my family... I always try to play by the book, but unfortunately this happened. --- The supplement used by Lyoto was 7-Keto, that contains the substance DHEA, found in products sold at supplement stores and very popular among athletes from various spots.
Rockhold firing shots after the Machida withdrawal.
USADA strikes again. When will these guys grow some balls... naturally.— Luke Rockhold (@LukeRockhold) April 13, 2016
Hendo must have forgotten that long stretch of his career where he used TRT.
P.O.S. -No respect https://t.co/03O5oM7sM9— Dan Henderson (@danhendo) April 13, 2016
Tim Kennedy has obviously been hanging out with Donald Cerrone lately.
I will fly and fight @danhendo right now. My mouth piece is in my pocket. I don't need anything else.— Tim Kennedy (@TimKennedyMMA) April 14, 2016
Derrick Lewis really wants to fight Roy Nelson.
I'm coming moth******** pic.twitter.com/xrGMaFAB3N— Derrick Lewis (@Thebeast_ufc) April 14, 2016
Cejudo has some pop in his hands for sure, but this isn't going to be the pace at which he'll be fighting DJ.
This commercial sounds like it should be for a monster truck rally.
4 times in 3 months seems excessive.
The UFC gives a shout out to Kobe on his final day in the game.
JBJ looks solid.
Clay Guida (32-16-0) vs. Brian Ortega (10-0-0-1); UFC 199, June 4.
TODAY IN MMA HISTORY
2012: The UFC made their Swedish debut with UFC on Fuel TV 2: Gustafsson vs. Silva which took place at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden. The event was headlined by a 3 round light heavyweight bout between Alexander Gustafsson and Thiago Silva which Gustafsson won by unanimous decision. Gustafsson was originally slated to face Antonio Rogerio Noguiera but Noguiera pulled out due to injury.
The event also featured the last professional win of Brian Stann's career. He knocked out Alessio Sakara with punches 2 minutes into the first round.
2000: UFC 25: Ultimate Japan 3 was held at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Tokyo Japan. The event was headlined between a light heavyweight fight between Tito Ortiz and Wanderlei Silva for the vacant light heavyweight title which Ortiz won by decision.
The event featured the UFC debut of future middleweight champion Murilo Bustamante who defeated Yoji Anjo by arm-triangle choke in the second round.
1985: UFC flyweight Jussier da Silva was born.
1980: UFC heavyweight Anthony Hamilton was born.
1977: UFC strawweight Jessica Rakoczy was born.
1975: Former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva was born.
Think I missed a spot? Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me up on Twitter @JedKMeshew and we'll include it in tomorrow's column.