NEW YORK – Daniel Cormier is down to his last couple of fights in the UFC, yet if all goes as he hopes they will be high-magnitude affairs that send him out on a triumphant note. Should he lose his heavyweight title to Derrick Lewis on Saturday night? All bets of a storybook ending are off. The stakes at UFC 230 might just be whether or not it’s a happy ending to Cormier’s career.
And as Cormier dealt with the media hordes on Thursday, his longtime manager and coach “Crazy” Bob Cook stood by soaking it all in. Cook, who trains Cormier at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, is good at keeping things like this in perspective. He says Cormier took the fight with the hard-hitting Lewis because a lot of factors came together to make it difficult to say no.
In the end, the rewards outweighed the risks.
“Every time you get in there there’s a risk,” Cook told MMA Fighting. “I look at this as seven years ago, eight years ago, we’d have been fighting Lewis for $10,000. So, we knew he’d pop back into shape real quick, which he did.”
With Lewis sitting directly in his sightline across the room, Cook handicapped the action.
“Lewis has a puncher’s chance. And I mean, that’s a real chance. He wings bombs and if you get hit by one you’ll be sleeping.”
With the UFC left to scramble for a main event worthy of the world’s most famous venue — Madison Square Garden — the dual-division champion Cormier was the biggest name available. As soon as Lewis landed that Hail Mary to finish Alexander Volkov at UFC 229, the UFC had a top contender to challenge him.
With everything falling in place — especially the idea of headlining an event at Madison Square Garden — it was up to Cormier and his team to decide what to do.
“We kept talking about it, and it was no, no, no, no...but all along, [Cormier’s] hand started feeling better, he was starting to be able to do a little bit more, and training and testing things out a little bit,” Cook said. “And then you know, the opportunity came up. Dana put a nice offer on the table, and it was yes, yes, yes. Sign us up.”
Cormier has maintained the whole way that as of March 20, when he is to turn 40 years old, he will walk away from competing. With the schedule the way it is, Cormier could fight Lewis Saturday then face Lesnar in February for his swan song fight.
As for whether or not this will be the penultimate fight of Cormier’s career, Cook said he wasn’t sure — but that if he had his druthers, that’s what he’d like to happen.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I think it’s Brock Lesnar, see how that goes, and then we’ll start making decisions. [His retirement] is coming. How soon, I don’t know, but it’s on the horizon. And you know one thing that I don’t like is having that in your mind when you’re still actively fighting. It’s not necessarily a healthy situation, but at the same time, I’d sure love to see him go out on top and leave the sport in such a great position. So from my stand point, I’d prefer sooner rather than later.”
As for whether or not Cormier could be coaxed into a third fight with Jon Jones, should that opportunity present itself at any point next spring? Cook smiles at the question. “I mean, he is obsessed with Jon Jones,” Cook said. “He wants to fight him at light heavyweight, I would love to fight him fight him heavyweight. So we’ll see who wins the battle.”