NEW YORK — The name Jon Jones continues to linger for Daniel Cormier. But Volkan Oezdemir — not Alexander Gustafsson — will be Cormier’s next opponent, the UFC light heavyweight champion confirmed Friday after telling that to Combate earlier in the day.
“He is the fight,” Cormier said Friday at a Fox Sports media lunch ahead of UFC 217. “He’s won three fights in a row. I fought Gustafsson before. It was a great fight. Something new, something different. That’s pretty much when it boiled down to.”
Cormier said he isn’t exactly sure when his fight with Oezdemir will be yet, but it’s close to being finalized. While Gustafsson seemed like his name would be in the mix, Cormier and the UFC have tabbed Oezdemir. Cormier beat Gustafsson at UFC 192 two years ago in a knock-down, drag-out war.
“Alexander wasn’t too pissed off himself when I said it was Oezdemir,” Cormier said. “It was like, ‘I can wait.’ It’s not like he was up in arms. If I’m scared of Alex, then he’s just as scared of me. Nobody wants to go through that sh*t again that we went through. He wasn’t that mad. He accepted it pretty easily.”
Cormier fought Jones at UFC 214 and lost via head kick TKO in the third round. But that Jones victory has been washed away; the fight is now a no contest due to Jones’ failed drug test for the steroid Turinabol. Jones is facing a maximum of a four-year suspension from USADA and also facing sanctions from the California State Athletic Commission.
For his part, Cormier hopes Jones gets a reduced suspension. He’s gunning for a third fight with his longtime rival even though he has fallen to him, at least inside the Octagon, twice.
“For me, personally, I prefer him to get a shorter suspension, so we could fight again,” Cormier said. “Of course I would fight him again. I am who I am, to fault. … I just like to fight him. I feel like I get better every time I prepare to fight him.”
Earlier this week, Jones posted some videos on social media that drew attention. Some have speculated he won’t get anywhere close to a four-year suspension and could be back more quickly. Cormier isn’t sure, but any time Jones is in the news he ends up finding out about, whether he likes it or not, when people tag him on Twitter. Cormier has accepted that he’ll forever be tied to Jones.
“I’m not gonna move on from our rivalry,” Cormier said. “It was too big. It’s gonna go down in history. I think people are optimistic. They want to believe in the good. When he says stuff like ‘back to work,’ they think maybe it’s not gonna be as long.”
Cormier, 38, said he doesn’t know how long Jones will be out, but has a hard time believing he’ll get less than the one-year ban he received last year for the banned substance clomiphene. Either way, “DC” will be ready for the trilogy bout.
“It’s crazy, I still don’t believe that I can’t win those fights,” Cormier said. “It’s nuts. People ask me, I’m like, ‘I can beat this dude.’ I’ll push myself to the limit to try to do it.”