The story between the duo stretches back years, its countless twists and turns leading Jones vs. Cormier to become one of the greatest rivalries in the history of the UFC light heavyweight division. But while both men have taken their turns reigning as UFC champion, Cormier believes work still needs to be done at UFC 214 before he and Jones can even be called a rivalry at all.
“This rivalry is a rivalry when I win the fight this weekend,” Cormier said this week on a UFC 214 conference call. “If you don’t win the fight, it’s no rivalry. It’s just two guys that were fighting on more than one occasion. It’s a rivalry when I win this weekend.”
Cormier, 38, and Jones, 30, rarely agree on anything. That’s no secret, considering the memorable lead-up to their first fight — a fight which Jones won via unanimous decision — or the countless social media jabs and heated exchanges the two have shared on their road to UFC 214. However, in this case, Jones sees things exactly the way Cormier does when it comes to the stakes of this weekend’s rematch.
“I think Daniel’s right. It’s not a rivalry,” Jones said. “Like I said at the whole beginning of this thing, I tried to be nice to him as a young, black kid, seeing that he’s Cain Velasquez’s coach and he was a wrestler who had far greater credentials than me. I thought I was going to freaking meet this guy and I thought we were going to be cool. I thought we were going to have a new inside joke every time I saw him. And his pride and his whatever, pre-notions, ego, that he had about me before — I didn’t know who he was, he knew who I was when we met.
“I never had a problem with him. I don’t have problems with people that I’ve beaten already. I don’t got a problem with Glover (Teixeira) or Chael (Sonnen) or Andre Gusmao, none of those guys. He has a problem with me, and I hate him because he hates me.”
The enmity between Cormier and Jones is well-documented to have started backstage at UFC 121, when upon first meeting Cormier, a young Jones told the former Olympian, “I bet you that I could take you down.” That initial slight has since blossomed into one of the overarching narratives of either man’s career, however Jones has always been careful not to give Cormier too much credit, and even this week, Jones hesitated when asked if Cormier is his career’s greatest antagonist.
“I would say outside of the Octagon, yes, because of all the back-and-forth and all of the verbal. But inside of the Octagon, it would have to be Alexander Gustafsson,” Jones said. “I mean, he came the closest to actually putting me in a spot where I felt like, ‘sh*t, I’m digging deep right now.’ Like, ‘I am possibly, I could be losing this.’ With Daniel Cormier, with Rashad Evans, with anybody else that I beat by unanimous decision, I never felt like there was never a moment where I felt like I was in danger, or I had to even dig deep or pull out my reserves. I was coasting. I mean, at one point in the first (Cormier) fight, I smiled and looked up at the camera. I was like, ‘this is great.’
“At no point did I got rocked or wobbled or hurt, or he made me bleed or anything. I had my whereabouts at the end of the fight. I remember putting my hands up, and he thought the fight was over and he quit like he normally does, and then I slapped him two more times and gave him a ‘DX suck it’ sign. It was a fun fight, and this fight is going to be even more fun. He’s two years older.”
Jones added that his pursuit of history, more so than any perceived rivalry with Cormier, is what motivates him the most at UFC 214.
“Honestly, and I mean this just from the bottom of my heart, this fight to me has nothing, it really has nothing to do with Daniel Cormier,” Jones said. “I could be anybody. I mean, Anthony Johnson, it could be Anthony. It could be Gustafsson who got the belt in my absence. This fight for me is about legacy. It always has been.
“I’ve been in this position so many times having a kind of antagonist, and for me, it’s always been about chasing greatness, and that’s what I’m here for. This DC chapter is going to be over on Saturday, and he’s just going to be a part of my legacy. At the end of the day, he will be remembered as one of Jon Jones’ great contenders.”