A lot was on the line when Daniel Cormier met Jon Jones for a second time at UFC 214. In Jones’ absence from the sport, Cormier reigned over the light heavyweight division for nearly three years as UFC champion, and a victory over Jones on July 29 would have undoubtedly cemented Cormier as one of the greatest fighters of his generation.
But it wasn’t meant to be.
Cormier suffered a dramatic third-round knockout loss to Jones, an otherwise competitive rematch slipping through his fingers once “Bones” landed the flush head kick that signaled the beginning of the end. Nearly three weeks later, Cormier broke his silence on The MMA Hour. Cormier admitted that any knowledge he has about UFC 214 at the moment is purely from secondhand information, as he hasn’t yet found it within himself to watch the fight.
“Right now, so far, I’m still kind of playing the guessing game, as to how the fight was going and how everything played out,” Cormier said Monday on The MMA Hour. “Because I asked people around me, like my coaches and my friends, they’ll talk to me about the fight, and from what everybody tells me, I think watching the fight would probably do more harm than good, because they were saying that we were fighting pretty even up until the kick, and I think it would maybe disappoint me.
“I’m not sure I’m ready for that emotionally yet, to watch that, especially if they are telling me the truth in regards to how the fight was going. And it was such a simple mistake, and I think that’s why it sucks. Because I don’t miss head kicks like that, and it’s not like it was a head kick off a punch combination or anything like that. You watch Donald Cerrone when he lands that beautiful combination on Rick Story, you can see how the head kick would land. But with this one, it just seemed like he was trying to keep me off of him. It was kind of like a kick to keep me back, and I missed it and it just caught me there on the right spot.”
Cormier figured that if he could’ve somehow managed to stay on his feet or clinched against the cage, he may have found a way to recover and survive until the horn. “But once I fell,” he said, “I was just kinda lost. I had no idea where (I was). I was lost, like my body wouldn’t do what I wanted it to do, and I couldn’t really figure out what was going on, honestly.”
The days since the loss have been hard. Cormier said he doesn’t expect to fight again in 2017 but stated unequivocally that he is not retiring. He also dismissed any notion that he may harbor resentment towards referee John McCarthy or UFC commentator Joe Rogan, the former for his stoppage of the fight and the latter for electing to interview Cormier post-fight while “DC” was clearly in a confused and emotional state.
“I don’t hold any ill will towards [Rogan],” Cormier said. “I think he was doing his job. I don’t hold any ill will towards John McCarthy either. John McCarthy gave me plenty of opportunities to stay in this fight. I couldn’t. The Joe Rogan interview, I don’t even know what happened. I still haven’t seen it, and honestly — man, I’ll be honest with you, I’m still missing time. Like, I don’t remember any of that.
“I don’t remember leaving the Octagon. Some of these photos where I was crying and I was hugging Bob (Cook), I don’t remember any of that. I remember being in the back — I feel like I came out of a fog. Like, I remember when I was in the back, they said ‘you have to go to the hospital.’ I’m like, for what? I just am still missing time. I’m missing probably, I don’t know, 10 minutes. I talked to Dana (White) and I said, ‘I’m sorry if I pushed you,’ because I remember they said I pushed somebody.
“I do the TV stuff, so obviously I’ve got friends in TV, and they said that as they were watching in the Octagon, they could hear the microphone on Bob Cook, and I was asking questions, asking what happened, asking why Dana yelled at me,” Cormier continued. “Then they said I was there and I was kinda tearing up, then they said that I looked up at the replay and that’s when I really broke down, because I guess I saw what happened. But I still, I don’t recall that. But again, tears and sadness mean that it means something to you, and I would do the same thing again.”
In the days after UFC 214, a clip circulated around the internet of Cormier predicting his own demise at a fan Q&A in 2014. In the clip, which was filmed before the first Jones-Cormier fight at UFC 182, Jones is asked what weaknesses he sees in “DC,” and Cormier responds by promising to shore up his head kick defense, stating, “so don’t think you’re going to kick me in the head with your left leg.”
That analysis ended up being prophetic, as a left-leg head kick is exactly the strike that dazed Cormier. And “DC” acknowledged he’s seen the clip.
“Honestly, [the KO] happened, but at the end I’m not exactly sure that really kinda relates,” Cormier said, “because I was talking about before. I used to really dip into kicks. Like, I would literally always take my head off to the side to evade punches. With ‘Rumble,’ when I broke my nose, I literally put my face right into the kick, and man, he tried to kick me again and I dipped my head back to that side again and he missed.
“With this one, I didn’t dip. I had trained, I thought I had shored up that area, so I was standing straight up when I got kicked. Now, I think the key to the sequence was that he had kicked me and tried to knee me and stuff in the body a lot, and the time that I got kicked, I was anticipating a body kick, so I went to block the body and the kick went high. But again, it was just me going forward, trying to pressure, and the kick got up fast. He really kicked up there fast, and I didn’t guess right.”
At 38 years old, Cormier’s championship window within the sport is starting to close, but the two-time Olympian still has options in the UFC. A move to heavyweight — a division where Cormier started off his career 13-0 — could reinvigorate his title chase, and even if he stays at light heavyweight, Cormier unquestionably remains one of the best 205-pound fighters in the world.
As for his rivalry with Jones, Cormier said he hasn’t focused much on Jones’ post-fight behavior since UFC 214, focusing instead on spending time with his loved ones. That being said, Cormier also did wish Jones well moving forward.
“I haven’t really paid much attention to [Jones]. I’ve been really focusing on myself and just my family,” Cormier said. “I don’t know what’s going to become of Jon Jones or what happens in the future, but for me personally, I just kind of want to just live my life. I’m not going to really address anything that happened with him and I right now. It’s a mute point, but to think that all the bad things that have been said, all of the negative comments towards each other could just be completely gone, would be unrealistic. But, in terms of coexisting in this sport, we have to. How can I not see or be around Jon Jones when my jobs are so closely tied to the UFC?
“So in that sense I will be a professional. But outside of that, I don’t really know. I thought we fought a good fight. I thought we were both fighting at the highest level of mixed martial arts, and a good strike landed that ended the fight. I’ve always respected him in that sense though. I’ve never once questioned the type of competitor that he is, he’s a fantastic competitor, and I just hope that at this point, now that he has the belt back, and he’s the UFC champion again, and the limelight will be brighter than ever, that he can handle it. I really do wish him the best in that sense.”