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Daniel Cormier on his retirement: ‘I don’t want to be a guy that goes out on my back’

Daniel Cormier Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Daniel Cormier has been teasing his retirement for more than a year but as the UFC heavyweight champion prepares for his next title defense, he’s now taking everything one fight at a time.

Ahead of his 40th birthday, Cormier had set that date as his deadline to call it a career as he looked to focus more of his time and energy on his family. His birthday came and went yet largely due to Cormier suffering a back injury last year that forced him to the sidelines for several months, which further delayed his plans to have at least one more fight before retirement.

Now as Cormier approaches his upcoming rematch with Stipe Miocic at UFC 241, he’s no longer setting deadlines or calling for a specific number of fights before he hangs up his gloves.

“My head is on this fight. We just go one at a time at this point,” Cormier told MMA Fighting. “Because for a champion and a guy that’s been around and been a champion for a long time, at a point you start making such amazing amounts of money and the fame level is so high, people struggle to walk away.

“The problem with that is ultimately you’ve seen the door. It’s whether you get shown the door or you choose to walk out. That’s what I have to decide.”

A huge part of Cormier’s decision will be weighed on the right timing to retire when he could leave the sport with his head held high and hopefully with a title belt still wrapped around his waist.

Cormier has learned as an observer of mixed martial arts that very few high level fighters ever retire on top and more often time than not, many overstay their welcome while managing to taint their legacy by not knowing when to walk away.

“I’ve long said I don’t want to be a guy that goes out on my back,” Cormier explained. “A lot of our greatest champions they leave the sport on their back. They leave as former champions. They leave their fans with that last vision of their favorite fighter on their back, [then] standing in the middle of the Octagon while their belt is getting strapped on someone else. I don’t want to be that guy.

“I want to be a guy that goes out on his own terms. I know that as you turn 40 years old, that time starts to near. I just have to decide if that time is now or a little bit later down the line.”

UFC president Dana White has said repeatedly that he believes Cormier still has several fights left in him before he retires and competitively it’s hard to argue with that logic.

Cormier has only suffered one defeat during his entire professional fighting career and he’s currently the best heavyweight in the sport after knocking out Miocic last July. He then defended that title with a lopsided victory over Derrick Lewis this past November.

He will walk into his upcoming rematch with Miocic as the betting favorite, which shows just how much faith there is in Cormier walking in as champion and walking back out with the belt still wrapped around his waist.

Deep down, the former two-time Olympic wrestler knows he could probably keep going for several more fights and maybe even a few more years but he doesn’t want to compete until a time comes when friends, family and loved ones are telling him it’s time to retire.

“I’ve long said I would get out not because I couldn’t compete anymore but I would get out because I would just feel it’s time for me to go,” Cormier said.

The other major factor in Cormier’s decision will also come down to the right opportunities.

He was rumored for a fight against former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar ever since last July when the two got into a physical altercation inside the Octagon following Cormier’s win over Miocic.

Unfortunately for Cormier, Lesnar opted to stay with World Wrestling Entertainment where he’s one of the most recognized professional wrestlers while earning a healthy paycheck for his services.

With Lesnar out of the picture, Cormier could also potentially pursue a third fight against Jon Jones after they’ve met on two previous occasions. That would obviously qualify as a huge opportunity for Cormier and that’s exactly the kind of fight that would likely get him to stick around for a little while longer.

“If you have a guy that’s in my situation that’s won 90 percent of his fights and been a champion and lived this tremendous life that I’ve been blessed, you don’t want to stand across the Octagon from just anybody,” Cormier said. “It needs to be something big.”

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