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Daniel Cormier sets hard date in 2019 for retirement from MMA

Though he started MMA late in his athletic life, Daniel Cormier has already cemented himself as an all-time great of the fight game. And now his run could soon be at its end.

“Come March, I will have 12 months, at max, left,” Cormier said Monday on The MMA hour. “I’m going to be done by March 20, 2019. I won’t be fighting again.”

Cormier, 38, defended his UFC light heavyweight title this past weekend in Boston with a dominant second-round stoppage of Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220.

The win arrived just two months before Cormier’s 39th birthday, which “DC” will celebrate on March 20. And with year four of his UFC light heavyweight title reign approaching, and his legacy secure as one of the greatest light heavyweights to ever compete in MMA, Cormier is beginning to ready himself for the next chapter of his life.

“I’m done, I’m going to be done at 40,” Cormier said. “I won’t be back. There won’t be jumping around or ‘I’m done until I get the right type of fight.’ It’ll be over. I’m not going to be doing this anymore. I’ve said time and time again that I’ve lived a great life in sports, I’ve loved every moment of it. My family has revolved around sports. Not only my family, Selena and the kids, but also my mom and my dad. I’ve been the center of the athletic universe for my family for a really, really long time, and it’s time for that to be little Daniel and Marquita. It’s time for them to be the center of our athletic competition, and I just want to be one of those crazy dads that gets to yell on the sideline and just go crazy and brag about his kids.

“Like, ‘Yeah, my kid won this tournament, my kid won this gymnastics competition.’ That stuff excites me, man. I’ve always wanted that, and I’ve had my time. Since I was 15 years old, I’ve been wrestling international competitions and going to the Olympics and the NCAA championships, and fighting in Strikeforce, UFC, so I’ve had my time. I’ve lived a lifetime in the spotlight. It’s okay, I can be done with it when I’m 40 years old.”

Cormier declined to say what the impending end to his run would mean for the 14 months he has left of his fight career. He is currently awaiting word on a thumb injury he suffered midway through his win over Oezdemir — he was on his way to the doctor to get an MRI during his appearance Monday on The MMA Hour. Much of his decision about his next step could depend on the severity of that injury.

But regardless of what happens, Cormier knows one path his final chapter in MMA won’t venture down. After UFC 220, UFC president Dana White voiced a desire to see Cormier move back up to heavyweight and challenge record-breaking heavyweight titleholder Stipe Miocic in a champion vs. champion superfight. And for Cormier — whose teammate and friend, Cain Velasquez, is also readying for a heavyweight title run in 2018 — going back up in weight simply isn’t an option Cormier wants to explore.

“I’ve talked about this time and time again and people keep asking. Look at the size difference between me and these dudes,” Cormier said.

“They just want to see me fight these big guys. So, that’s not on my radar right now, you know? I’m just going to try to figure out what’s going on with my hand and see what’s next. It’s not like I’m fighting small guys. Alexander Gustafsson could be a heavyweight, so it’s not like fighting at heavyweight is the only way to fight big guys. I mean, Gus is a big guy. So yeah, I’m just going to hang out right now and see what’s next, and see who presents themselves as the next challenge.”

Instead, Cormier simply hopes to enjoy the small window of time he left has in the sport.

While Cormier would obviously love another rematch with his rival, Jon Jones, he vowed that he is done focusing on things outside of his control. With Jones potentially starting down the barrel of another long USADA suspension, Cormier wants only to live in the moment throughout his final year in the sport, taking in the sights and sounds of a great career that is coming to a close, rather than plan out a perfect ending he’d have to stress over fulfilling.

“I don’t really have a perfect scenario, because if I start to think, ‘Well, it’d be great if I beat Gustafsson in July and then beat Jones in December,’ now it’s about them. It’s not about them anymore. It’s about me. It’s my story,” Cormier said.

“I don’t care who I fight over the course of this next 14 months. It’s going to be who’s deserving. My legacy, my career, is not tied to beating Alexander more convincingly this time, or finally beating Jon Jones. It doesn’t matter to me anymore. It’s about me and what I’m doing. At the end of the day, I have to be okay with my career when it’s said and done, and my career is good with me when it’s said and done whether I beat Jones or if I have to beat Gustafsson or if I never face him. I’m fine with everything.”

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