The lower leg injury which ultimately forced UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier out of his UFC 197 title defense against Jon Jones wasn't one of those moments in which the injured party immediately knew something really bad just went down.
"I was in practice sparring," Cormier said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, "and I kicked one of my partners [with an] inside low kick and he checked it. And I fell down, and I was ‘ahh, that was painful,' and [trainer] Bob Cook was laughing. We get kick checked all the time. Sometimes you bruise your shin, and in a couple days it passes."
Instead, Cormier went back at it during his March 25 training session at San Jose's American Kickboxing Academy, not knowing that the checked kick had kicked off a sequence of events which would culminate a week later in Cormier pulling out of an announced matchup for the first time in his 18-fight pro career.
"I get up to try to spar again, and another guy did a little front kick to my shin," Cormier said. "And when he did it I fell to the ground again, and I said, okay, this hurts a little bit more than normal, so I'm going to probably stop sparring. So I stopped sparring."
When the injury hadn't healed over the weekend, Cormier went to a doctor to get it checked out. And while he found out the leg wasn't broken, the prognosis made it clear his spot in the April 23 bout in Las Vegas was in jeopardy.
"I imagined by Monday it would be better, but it hadn't gotten better, so I'm like ‘what if broke the leg, I should probably get it X-rayed," Cormier said. "So I got the X-ray and there wasn't a break, but the doctor said ‘we should get an MRI, there may be some bleeding' when they took the MRI they found a torn a ligament in my leg, ... it's the ligament that connects the two bones in my leg, it's the ligament that kind of makes them work together. I took rest of the week, I tried to spar, really had no lateral movement, couldn't run, couldn't wrestle, couldn't grapple, can't kick, so it was just not looking good."
"Something very surprising happened," Cormier said. "Jon and I will make a lot of money together, we make a lot of money for the UFC too. But when I told them I was going to see it through the weekend, those guys were, ‘Daniel you're hurt. Looking at your MRI, you need 5-6 weeks, so even if sat on your ass, for the next three weeks before they fight, you'd still need at least two weeks to start feeling better, and they're like, you know DC, you worked very hard to get to where you are today. You're the champion, you don't have to fight hurt. We can't put you in situation you're not healthy, we don't want you to fight in those circumstance. They made decision for me. I begged them, I was like give me until Monday, please."
Word dropped Friday night that Cormier was out of the fight, eventually to be replaced by Ovince Saint Preux. Cormier, who's had stem cell therapy done on his bad ACL for quite some time, was scheduled to have similar work done on his injured shin Monday.
"You know my knee, my ACL has been torn forever," Cormier said. "So I get stem cells done to my ACL to try to help with the healing, it also takes out some of the inflammation when my leg starts to lock up. I do the stem cells and it helps. I'm not going to do the surgery. I'm 37 years old, if I do the surgery it may put me out for too long. I want to get back as soon as possible. I'm going to do stem cells to my leg. Hopefully that will help speed up the process, and get some stuff done to my shoulder. I'm pretty beat up right now as you would expect to get back for a hard training camp. But I will do everything in my power to try to get back as soon as I can."
With any luck -- a lot will depend on how Jones-OSP goes as much as Cormier's own recovery, we could see Cormier-Jones 2 at UFC 200. But if not, Cormier hopes the matchup goes down sometime over the summer.
"If they're telling me in 4-6 weeks I'm supposed to be better, that would leave me with 10-12 weeks to train for UFC 200, I could be ready to fight then. The only thing with that is, it's a little scary because Jon is fighting in April. I don't know if he will be willing to turn around and fight right back again three months later. If he would, I'd love to run it back with him any time in the summer late summer, early summer, it doesn't matter."