Deron Winn doesn’t have to look far for a blueprint for his budding MMA career.
As a close friend of UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, Winn has had the opportunity to learn firsthand from one of the most successful fighters ever to make the transition from wrestling and at 29, he’s getting ready to leave his own mark in the cage. Winn (5-0) is set to make his UFC debut against Markus Perez in a middleweight bout on June 22 at UFC Greenville.
He’ll enter not only with an undefeated record and a trio of NCAA All-American designations to his name, but the backing of the American Kickboxing Academy, one of the premier teams in MMA that has produced world champions like Cormier and Cain Velasquez. Those just happen to be two of Winn’s primary training partners and he credits them with preparing him for what is expected to be his biggest challenge yet in his new sport.
“I train at one of the best gyms in the world,” Winn said on The MMA Hour on Monday. “DC’s like my best friend, that’s like my big brother. I spend time with all our best guys. Cain, I go to Cain’s house, 1-on-1, we’re in the grass at night, working on head movement, working on stuff like this. I’m getting advice from the best guys that this sport has ever seen, so if you don’t think that they are going to do their best that they can to prepare me or if I’m not going to be prepared for everything, then people are tripping.”
Given how close Winn is with Cormier, he was asked by host Luke Thomas for his thoughts on Cormier’s impending retirement. The 40-year-old Cormier won three fights in 2018, defending his light heavyweight title against Volkan Oezdemir, knocking out Stipe Miocic to add the heavyweight title to his collection, and then successfully defending that newly won belt against Derrick Lewis. Since the Miocic fight, Cormier has made his intentions clear that he would like to close out his career by welcoming WWE star Brock Lesnar back to the UFC, but plans for that matchup appear to be in limbo.
Others have suggested a trilogy bout with longtime rival Jon Jones for Cormier (Jones won their first meeting by five-round unanimous decision back in January 2015, then their second meeting two years later by third-round knockout only to have that outcome changed to a no contest when he tested positive for banned substances), a matchup that Winn bristles at.
He pointed to Jones’s pair of doping failures as evidence that he isn’t worth Cormier’s attention and questioned the legitimacy of the “pulsing” explanation that has allowed Jones to compete twice this year despite trace amounts of Turinabol metabolites remaining in his system.
“I don’t think he should ever worry about a guy like Jon Jones ever again,” Winn said of Cormier. “And as much as people want to act like [Jones is] the greatest — he’s a cheat. He’s a coward, he’s a cheat, he’s never been legal. Even these past couple of fights, he keeps failing drug tests, so he’s a cheat and his legacy will always be tarnished.
“DC has passed something crazy like 60 USADA tests from when he was wrestling in the Olympics. He’s a clean, fair, hardworking guy, and I want him to get one more big paycheck and get out. He doesn’t need anymore, he’s submitted his legacy, he’s done things that only a couple of people have ever done. His only loss is to the biggest fraud in MMA.”
Winn went on to praise Cormier for his character and professionalism and to express that he supports Cormier’s retirement plans. A bout with Lesnar has raised eyebrows given that Lesnar has not competed since winning a decision against Mark Hunt at UFC 200 back in July 2016 and that result became a no contest when Lesnar tested positive for banned substances.
Regardless, Winn thinks Cormier has done enough to end his career on his terms.
“DC’s a really good guy, and what a lot of people don’t see and people hate on him a lot because of the Jon Jones thing, what DC does behind the scenes is what makes him who he is,” Winn said. “I’ve never seen a person as selfless as him behind the scenes take care of people. We coach kids and we coach high school teams and a lot of people think that it’s me just coaching and DC shows up whenever he wants; in reality, DC is there just as much as me, if not more. He’s very selfless. He acts as if he isn’t a celebrity, all the time.
“He’s a very humble guy, he’s a very down-to-earth guy, and all I want for him is to get one more big fight, hopefully Brock at heavyweight, I don’t think he should ever make himself get down to 205 again, there’s no point. I think he should fight this one fight at heavyweight, Brock, and then get out. Finish on top. Not a lot of guys finish on top, not a lot of guys finish on top by defending their belts. He’s defended each belt and he deserves it. He deserves to finish on top.”