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Daniel Cormier explains UFC 210 towel incident, ‘hardest' weight cut of his career

Daniel Cormier successfully retained his light heavyweight title with a win over Anthony Johnson at UFC 210, however the reigning and defending UFC champion nearly lost his belt before fight night ever rolled around.

At Friday’s early morning UFC 210 weigh-ins, Cormier tipped the scales at 1.2 pounds over the light heavyweight limit — enough to cause him to be stripped of the title — before returning just minutes later and hitting the 205-pound mark on the nose in a controversial scene in Buffalo, New York. In reflecting back on the experience, Cormier called the incident the toughest weight cut of his MMA career, and said that he knew things were going to be rough as early as Wednesday of fight week.

“My weight was good. Wednesday morning, I’d guess I was like 218, but I could just feel like I wasn’t losing as much as I would lose normally,” Cormier said Monday on The MMA Hour. “Whereas, if I would go and work out for an hour and lose eight pounds, (instead) I was losing five-and-a-half pounds. So I was like, ‘alright, this is going to be a little bit of a tougher cut, so I know Thursday is going to be rough.’

“This was the hardest one by far,” Cormier continued. “I think the beginning of my 205-pound career was easier because I was fighting so often. Like, if you remember, I fought Patrick Cummins, then I fought Dan Henderson, then I fought (Jon) Jones and I fought (Alexander) Gustafsson, ‘Rumble.’ They were all within the first year-and-a-half. So every three or four months, I was fighting; whereas now, after Gustafsson, it was like nine months (until UFC 200), and then this time again it was like eight months. So it’s just a lot of time between fights. Just, I need to be a little more active, so that my weight doesn’t get as high, and also my body gets used to the weight cut again.”

Cormier has never been a fan of MMA’s new early morning weigh-in procedures, which took the place of late-afternoon weigh-ins and were adopted by the UFC last July. Cormier said he preferred to be able to take his time on weigh-in day and pace himself to hit his mark by the afternoon under the old system. But this time around, even after waking up a 5:30 a.m. ET to resume cutting weight for UFC 210, Cormier said he felt the time crunch of having to make weight by 10 a.m.

“When I went down, my scale in the room said I was on-weight, so I figured I was good,” Cormier said. “But I was tired. I was really tired. I was exhausted. If you watch as I walk onto the scale, I was kinda almost staggering because the weight cut was a little harder than I anticipated it being.”

Then all hell broke loose. With just minutes to spare before UFC 210 weigh-ins ended, Cormier tipped the scales at 206.2 pounds — 1.2 pounds over the 205-pound limit. And after expecting to be on weight, Cormier said he couldn’t believe he was seeing.

“Oh my goodness, what is happening?” Cormier said. “Like, how could this possibly be happening? How am I going to lose this championship on the scale?

“I was complaining, like, ‘the scale is not right.’ I was like, ‘this is BS, I want to re-weigh. This is some BS, my scale said I was 205.’ I said also, ‘I’ve been checking all week, I don’t understand what the issue is.’ And then they said, ‘well you can go re-weigh, but you also have two hours because it’s a championship fight.’ So (we figured) go re-weigh, and if I didn’t make it then, go back and lose the extra pound. They informed me in the back while I was complaining, but I didn’t know it at the time. My issue mostly was with feeling like my scale was right, because I paid $600 for a brand new scale.”

The ‘extra two-hour rule’ for two title fights is a rule that is wholly exclusive to the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) — and one that seemingly no one knew about until NYSAC executive director Tony Giardina explained following weigh-ins.

Under normal circumstances in other jurisdictions, fighters are generally allotted a two-hour period to weigh-in and not permitted any extra time, even for championship fights. But then further controversy arose just minutes later, as the light heavyweight champion gripped the privacy towels with both hands while he successfully made the 205-pound limit during his second weigh-in.

Several fighters and pundits immediately accused Cormier of utilizing an old weigh-in trick by using the towels to shift his weight and fool the scale, however Cormier said he didn’t even realize that he was touching the towels to begin with.

“When I got off the scale the first time, I walked away, and they didn’t cover me,” Cormier said. “So obviously, a guy thinks that he’s losing everything that he’s worked for on the scale, and we just walk back off the scale and nobody even worried about protecting me. So I was like, you know what, I’m going to hold the towel a little bit myself to make sure that I’m covered.

“Now, the reality is, I didn’t even realize I was doing that until I saw pictures, honestly. I’ve got to be completely honest with you, I didn’t even realize I was doing that. I was tired. I was very discouraged and upset because of after that had just happened, so I didn’t even realize that I was doing it.”

Cormier described his reaction after making weight as one of “pure joy,” as he and his team celebrated completing the hardest weight cut of the former heavyweight’s fighting career. But then the strangeness of the situation grew even stranger just minutes later, as Johnson hit the scales at the final minute and weighed-in well below the light heavyweight limit — 1.2 pounds to be exact.

And according to Cormier, even Johnson was a little worried about how things were going to play out.

“Honestly, man, my team was standing with Anthony’s team in the back and they spoke to a couple of his coaches, and they said he been working out and not losing weight,” Cormier said. “They said that ‘Rumble’ had worked out for like an hour-and-a-half and lost .8 pounds, and they were thinking, ‘this dude ain’t going to make weight either.’ Then he goes in and he’s the exact amount of weight under as I was the second time I stepped on the scale.

“So I don’t know what was happening with that scale, but yeah, they were concerned that he wasn’t going to (make it). He said it himself. He’s like, ‘man, I was in the same situation as you,’ so obviously we both had some issues with our scales, or the commission had a scale issue. I don’t know.”

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