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Coach Javier Mendez wouldn’t be surprised if we see ‘two or three’ more fights from Daniel Cormier

How many fights does Daniel Cormier have left?
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Will Daniel Cormier call it quits after his 40th birthday?

For the reigning UFC heavyweight champion, that has always been the plan. Cormier has long stated intentions to retire this year after he hits his 40th birthday on March 20, 2019. But as the countdown to his self-appointed expiration date approaches, Cormier has nudged the door open for his stay in mixed martial arts to continue on a little longer.

In recent months, UFC president Dana White has repeatedly expressed an interest in booking Cormier for two or three fights in 2019 before he hangs up his gloves, and “DC” admitted Monday on The MMA Hour that he isn’t sure if his next fight will actually be his last. Cormier is likely the frontrunner to win 2018’s Fighter of the Year award and made history with his most recent campaign, so it’s not as if “DC” is struggling to stay competitive at age 39. So even though longtime AKA head coach Javier Mendez would prefer “DC” stick to his original retirement plan, he still wouldn’t be shocked if Cormier decides to change his mind.

“If Dana had his way, there’d be three left. And you know what, Dana has a pretty good way of persuading people,” Mendez told MMA Fighting. “I like Dana, so I don’t know — we may see two or three [more fights]. I don’t know, I think so. I think Dana has a way of making things good for DC and making it right, so yeah, possibly. I wouldn’t be surprised.”

If Cormier does decide to extend his career past his 40th birthday, Mendez said he would throw his full support behind Cormier’s decision. He noted that Cormier is a uniquely self-aware athlete, especially when it comes to his own level of skill and ability to compete at a world-class level, so he knows “DC” would only fight past his original end date if he felt truly capable of performing at the championship level with which he is accustomed.

“For me, I love DC so much, that if DC says tomorrow, ‘Jav, I’m done,’ then I’m going to encourage him to be done. But if he says, ‘Jav, I want to fight again,’ then I’m going to be onboard with him,” Mendez said. “I’m with whatever DC wants. I love that guy so much, he’s such a great team captain and a great individual and a great friend. He’s not endangering his health, so for me, whatever he wants, I’m going to be onboard. So if he tells me tomorrow, ‘I’m done,’ then I’ll tell you he’s done, but if he says, ‘I’m going to fight 10 more fights, Jav,’ let’s fight 10 more fights. This is DC’s train. I’m onboard, and I’m glad to be onboard, and I’ll ride it until he doesn’t want to be onboard.”

For now, though, there are other questions about Cormier’s next fight still to be answered as well, most importantly the matter of who Cormier’s opponent will be.

“DC” admitted Monday that the blockbuster pairing many people expected against WWE superstar and former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar is “kinda still up in the air.” That is the matchup Mendez prefers next more than any other, but Cormier also entertained a potential rematch against Stipe Miocic, the record-breaking ex-heavyweight champion who Cormier knocked out in the first round at UFC 226. A trilogy fight against light heavyweight titleholder Jon Jones could also be available after Jones made his successful return to the cage against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232.

Jones called out Cormier in the aftermath of his third-round TKO win over Gustafsson, but made it clear that he expects Cormier to meet him back down at light heavyweight if the fight were to ever take place. Considering how preternaturally competitive Cormier is, Mendez admitted that the idea of “DC” moving back down to 205 pounds to meet Jones a third time isn’t out of the realm of possibility. But if it were up to him, he would prefer Cormier to force Jones to come up to heavyweight to settle the rivalry once and for all.

“Would I rather have him at heavyweight, yeah,” Mendez said. “But knowing DC, the competitor that he is, he lost to [Jones] as a light heavyweight — I wouldn’t be surprised if DC says [a potential third fight is at] light heavyweight. But me personally, if he asks my advice, I’m gonna say if you’re gonna fight the guy, then I would like it at heavyweight.

“But really, like I said, for me, I only want him to fight Brock, one fight, call it quits. He’s such an incredible coach, he’s an incredible analyst. Man, that guy is just made for TV. So, to me, he doesn’t need fighting. He doesn’t need it. So for me, I’m with whatever he wants to do, but if I had a choice I would say fight Brock and then call it quits. Don’t fight anybody else. You don’t need to, you don’t need to. Move on, do some other great things, be involved with your son, watch him grow, watch him mature, watch him do their things like you always wanted to do. That’s what I would do. But DC’s the boss, so he calls the shots.”

Whenever Cormier does decide to hang up his gloves, he’ll do so with a legacy intact as one of the greatest fighters to ever compete. His 2018 campaign guaranteed that. Over a span of 12 months, Cormier effortlessly defended his light heavyweight title against a hard-charging challenger, became only the second man to capture simultaneous titles in two separate divisions, then topped himself by becoming the first two-division champion to successfully defend a belt when he dispatched Derrick Lewis on short notice at UFC 230 despite being injured. Not bad for a 39-year-old whose final chapter is fast approaching.

“I don’t know we’ll ever see somebody at that age [do what Cormier did in 2018],” Mendez said. “And I’ll give you an example of what we’re talking about. When he got the call to fight the ‘Beast,’ we said, ‘Okay, let’s see how you do with sparring.’ The first day he sparred, ‘Crazy’ Bob Cook and I looked at each other, we went, ‘Oh shit, we’re in trouble, man. We’re in trouble.’ And DC goes, ‘What do you think?’ I go, ‘Oh man, we got our work cut out for us.’

“Two days later he spars again, and we’re like, ‘Whoa. Well, you know, actually I think we have a good chance to do this.’ The third sparring session — he only had four — Bob and I were going, ‘Well, we’re kicking [Lewis’] ass. Wow.’ He made such a transformation from one sparring to the second to the third, it was un-freaking-believable. So because he is that unbelievable, I don’t know if we ever will see someone that age be able to do what he did. I’ve never seen it. I’ve never seen somebody be able to go from that bad to the next sparring session that improved. Never with any of my guys, never have. He is the only I’ve ever seen do that, so he’s special. He’s special like nobody I’ve ever seen in that regard.”

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