Daniel Cormier wasn’t willing to fight anyone not named Jon Jones.
After stopping top contender Anthony Johnson earlier this year at UFC 210, there seemed to a be a few possible options on the horizon for the UFC light heavyweight champion. One those options was a potential title defense against Jimi Manuwa, since the British fighter was the only top contender Cormier hadn’t already fought. Yet, despite the trash talk between the two, and the media attention their unexpected rivalry garnered, Manuwa was never an option in Comier’s mind, as the champ only had one thing in mind for UFC 214 — avenging his only professional loss.
“They offered me the Manuwa fight for July 29 in Anaheim,” Cormier told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “A week after I fought ‘Rumble’ [Johnson], Dana called me. I was on my way to Kansas City, and Manuwa was in his office and he goes, ‘you versus Manuwa in Anaheim,’ and I said, ‘well, eh,’ and he said, ‘what’s wrong,’ and I go, ‘it needs to be Jones, make it happen.’
“And I badgered him and I badgered him, and I go, ‘tell me he’s ready to go,’ and he’s like, ‘I’m talking to him.’ So I go, ‘tell me he’s going to do it,’ and he goes, ‘well, I’m talking to him, we’re going get this figured out.’ And after about a week of me just badgering him, Dana goes, ‘DC calm down, I’m working on it.’ And finally it was Jones. It had to be Jones. Ariel, I want fights that get me going.
“‘Rumble’ Johnson, it was like, ‘is he really going to do it this time, can he get one on me and knock me out?’ So that’s the stuff that gets my juices going. Can Jon Jones do what he did last time and beat me again? That’s what get my juices going, or otherwise I’ll just do TV, you know? They tell me, ‘you got to fight Jimi Manuwa,’ and I’m like, ‘for what? This dude has no chance, come on.’”
Apart from wanting to be challenged skills-wise, the fight with Jones was also the biggest fight the UFC could put together for Cormier. Jones and Cormier have one of the most heated rivalries in MMA today, as Jones already defeated Cormier back at UFC 182. However, due to a hit-and-run incident, Jones was stripped of his title in 2015, and that's when Cormier’s reign over the 205-pound division began.
Now, the two will have a chance to settle their beef and fight again inside the Octagon, but this time on a stacked card that includes two additional title fights below them, plus a bevy of other great match ups — which is something they didn’t have before.
“We did really well last time and I know the numbers we did were really, really well last time, and that was without help, so I think we’ll do pretty good,” Cormier said.
“It’s good for me because the first time Jon and I fought it was essentially a boxing fight, you know? The co-main event was Myles Jury vs. Donald Cerrone, but this time there are a lot of fights that I can't even make out the main card at this point. Jon and I, ‘Cyborg’ [vs. Tonya Evinger], Tyron [Woodley vs. Demian Maia], so I guess Cerrone vs. Lawler would have to be on the main card, so is [Renan] Barao on the main card? Or is Manuwa on the main card? I don't know, but that's a good problem to have.”