LA MIRADA, Calif. — Jon Jones wants Daniel Cormier to embrace being second-best.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion, and arguably the best MMA fighter of all time, said Thursday at UFC 214 open workouts at UFC Gym that Cormier needs to stop being in denial and just admit to himself that he’s great, but in the wrong mixed martial arts time period.
“It’s weird when it comes to me and Daniel,” Jones said. “At the end of the day, I see who he is. I think he’s a f*cking great guy. You guys are all in the reporting business, you guys get to see him a lot more than I see him. He’s funny, he has good friends and shit. He’s a f*ckin’ good dude. I want the best for him, I really do. I wish he was just man enough to realize that he’s f*cking around with the wrong era. He just so happened to come into the sport, he’s 39 years old and he’s f*cking with a guy who’s in his prime. That guy who honestly believes that it’s his era and does everything in his power to make sure it’s his era.”
Jones, of course, is talking about himself. He beat Cormier in 2015, but has only fought once since then due to an arrest and drug suspension. Cormier, in Jones’ absence, became UFC light heavyweight champion and has held the belt for more than two years.
On Saturday, the two great champions will finally meet again, in the main event of UFC 214 in Anaheim, Calif. Jones believes the rivalry will end there, with him winning both fights against Cormier. He said Cormier needs to accept that he can’t reach Jones’ heights as a fighter.
“If he could just swallow that,” Jones said, “and say, ‘You know what, I’m the baddest mother f*cker outside of Jon Jones, then I can go to sleep at night. Because I’m still a bad mother f*cker.’ Instead of embracing that, he’s coming up with all these reasons why he lost. And then on top of that he comes up with all this stuff that has nothing to do with the fight, trying to keep people focusing on my past. it’s just silly.”
Jones held the title for four years before it was stripped from him. He is still regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world despite the layoffs and outside-the-Octagon issues. Jones’ legacy has yet to be fully written, but even if his career ended this weekend he still might go down as the best MMA fighter ever.
Cormier’s legacy is far more complex, and tied very much to Jones. Even Cormier has admitted he needs to win this fight to solidify his standing as an all-time great to many people. But Cormier has also beaten everyone else who is not Jones, won a Strikeforce grand prix title and been to the Olympics as a wrestler.
All that is great, Jones said, and Cormier deserves credit. But, in so many words, Jones said there are levels to this MMA game.
“I want the best for Daniel Cormier,” Jones said. “I really got no problem with him. The fight is gonna be over soon, and I already made a conscience effort that I’m not gonna be classless out there like I was the first time. i want to shake the guy’s hand and just tell him, ‘Hey bro, you’re the real deal, bro. You’ll beat freakin’ 98 percent of the other guys in the division, but you’re not beating me.’”