Daniel Cormier’s legacy is forever secure.
“DC” made history over the weekend at UFC 226, knocking out Stipe Miocic with a first-round assault to become only the second fighter ever to hold two UFC titles simultaneously. At 39 years old, with the end of his career fast approaching, the stunning night in Las Vegas rewrote many of the narratives surrounding Cormier and his time in the sport, thrusting his name into conversations regarding the greatest fighter of all-time and cementing him as one of the best heavyweights to ever compete.
And for all of that to happen barely a year after the lowest moment of his career, Cormier can’t help but marvel at what his success at UFC 226 truly meant.
“It means everything, man,” Cormier said Monday on The MMA Hour. “For a guy who was almost, like, right on the cusp but never was able to push through, if you just keep trying, man, and just keep working, keep getting better, keep pushing for goal after goal after goal — if you fail at something … just keep trying and keep giving yourself opportunities to do something special, and I did that and did that and did that, and eventually I got it done. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Now the UFC’s reigning heavyweight and light heavyweight champion, Cormier appears to have a major payday on his horizon with a looming matchup against WWE superstar and former UFC titleholder Brock Lesnar. “DC” and Lesnar ignited a furor across the MMA world for their post-fight shoving match inside the cage at UFC 226. Many critics online complained that the scuffle ruined what should’ve been an iconic moment for Cormier, but for “DC,” that assertion couldn’t be father from the truth.
“Not at all, it didn’t ruin my night,” Cormier said. “It made it even better. If not for anything, if I was a guy who just wanted that type of moment, that would’ve been OK, but how did it ruin my moment? When I won the belt the first time, the first thing I did was yell at Jon Jones to get his stuff together, set up my next fight. This fight with Brock Lesnar, I told him to get in the Octagon, and it set up my next fight. How did it ruin my moment? It doesn’t change the fact that I got to win the UFC heavyweight title. They’ve got this great image of me sitting on top of the cage floating around right now. I don’t understand how that would’ve ruined my moment.”
Cormier joked that he even got a little taste of what a Lesnar matchup could be like during the shoving match, and the strength that the massive professional wrestler possesses.
“He’s very strong,” Cormier said, laughing. “He pushed me and I went falling back, and then when he got close, I pushed him back but I barely moved him. I’m like, gosh, I should’ve pushed him so much harder. I was like, why would I push him so soft? Am I like kind of scared of Brock Lesnar? Like, why didn’t I push him a lot harder than I did? But he’s going to get his. He’s going to get his.”
All in all, the return to heavyweight was an overwhelming success for Cormier, whose overall career record in the sport’s heaviest weight class is now a perfect 14-0. A former Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix winner, Cormier hadn’t competed in the division since 2013, but said that he felt like a better fighter competing once again in the land of the giants than he did while draining his body down to make the light heavyweight limit.
“I felt like I was faster,” Cormier said, “because at 205, I think my speed, it doesn’t jump out at you as much because all of these guys that I fight are pretty fast. So I think I felt faster, I think I felt faster at heavyweight, and then just not having to do that weight cut, it makes such a big deal, man. That weight cut can really, really — it can really brutalize you.
“[Without the weight cut] I was so excited, man,” Cormier added. “I was in the back trying to contain myself. Like, how do I stay the course and not put myself in the fight too early, because without having to worry about the weight management, now I have all this time to think about the fight, and I do a lot of visualization and stuff. So it’s like, when I visualize, I’m like, ‘Wow, I could go and just fight right now. I don’t have to cut any weight. How do I monitor myself and manage my energy in regards to the fight?’ I can’t get too excited, so I was really trying to peel myself back a lot. I was trying to peel myself back a lot when it came to thinking about the fight.”
The power difference at heavyweight wasn’t a factor either — or at least for Cormier’s chin. “DC” said that although Miocic hit hard, he’s felt harder from the likes of Anthony Johnson, the retired light heavyweight contender who Cormier twice defeated with the 205-pound belt on the line.
Nonetheless, despite his historic success at UFC 226, Cormier is still prepared to walk away from the sport next March after his 40th birthday. He is hoping for a blockbuster title defense against Lesnar in early 2019, and is open to defending his 205-pound belt later this year if an interesting opportunity arises. But regardless of how things play out, he isn’t willing to budge about the upcoming expiration date for his career.
“You know what’s crazy? It’s just that, it’s the mountaintop, right?” Cormier said. “It’s like, man, I won the heavyweight championship of the world. I’m the UFC light heavyweight champion. How do you top that? And if I’ve got to be honest, I feel like I could fight until I’m 42 or 43 years old, but my family and I, we made a decision a long time ago on when I was going to be done, and I’m going to stick to that. So I’m not leaving because I can’t compete, obviously. I’m leaving because it’s something that we decided to do a while ago.”