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Daniel Cormier responds to eye poke allegations ahead of trilogy with Stipe Miocic

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Daniel Cormier has been waiting for his opportunity to settle the score with UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic ever since their rematch ended but a global pandemic and an eye surgery has delayed the fight for almost an entire year.

In their first meeting in 2018. Cormier won with a first-round knockout but afterwards there were allegations that an eye poke occurred before the finish that may have altered the direction of the fight. Months later when Miocic was asked about the eye pokes in an interview with MMA Fighting, he declined to address it.

Then came the rematch where Miocic exacted his revenge but once again the eye pokes apparently played a part with the Cleveland native suffering an injured retina that required a procedure to repair the damage done. Miocic was forced to take time off due to the injury and his agent Jim Walter later released a statement saying the two-time champion “sustained a major retina injury from multiple eye pokes” and that he would return when “he is healthy enough to compete.”

There are even entire threads on Reddit dedicated to the “did he or didn’t he” aspect of the eye pokes in the fights between Cormier and Miocic.

In response, Cormier addressed the situation in a recent interview with MMA Fighting where he spoke about the alleged eye pokes that happened in both fights.

“I’m not purposely doing that,” Cormier said. “I’m not purposely poking him in the eye. That first fight, I kind of poked him in the eye but the issue with that was sometimes when I spar and because I’m shorter, I have the 16-ounce gloves, I can kind of flick my hand towards guys and hit them when they’re a little bit out of range. I think that’s what happened the first time.

“The second time, once I think my knuckle got jammed into his eye but that’s not a finger. I kind of punched and the thumb was tucked into a fist but the knuckle got him in the eye.”

Unfortunately, eye pokes in MMA have become an all too common bi-product of open fingered gloves when fighters engage in striking exchanges on the feet.

Referees often warn athletes to keep their fists closed because many of them gauge distance or set up combinations by putting a hand forward with fingers extended.

The foul also happens regularly when one fighter is trying to push away from another with their hands and a finger will inadvertently get jammed into the eye.

Eye pokes have forced some fights to be stopped in the past with others suffering irreparable harm because of injuries suffered in one of those incidents.

Cormier knows all too well how those fouls can affect a fight as well as the long term damage done from repeated eye injuries. That’s why he refutes any claim that he’s ever poked Miocic or anybody else in the eye on purpose but rather it has only happened accidentally through the normal course of a fight.

“I’m not trying to poke the guy in the eye. That’s f**king stupid,” Cormier said. “Why would I ever do that? I don’t wish long term damage to this guy’s eye. I don’t wish that the guy can’t see out of his freaking eye. That’s crazy.

“One of my friends and co-workers deals with that, Michael Bisping. I don’t want to see another guy having to deal with that. That’s crazy. I’m not trying to poke this guy in the eye.”

Miocic knows his sight may never be 20/20 but he told MMA Fighting earlier this year that his vision has vastly improved since having the procedure on his retina. Being cleared by his eye doctor was a major hurdle in booking the trilogy with Cormier in August at UFC 252.

“I would have been back way earlier,” Miocic said about the eye injury. “It’s definitely way, way, way better. I’ve got spots here and there, I don’t think it’s anything out of the ordinary. I needed glasses in general with the retina or not.”

While Miocic was faced with the more serious injury, replays have shown that both fighters may have dealt with eye pokes in their previous meetings but Cormier certainly holds no ill will towards his upcoming opponent for what happened.

“I’ve gotten thumbed to the eye by Stipe before,” Cormier said. “It’s not like he’s never thumbed me in the eye. He’s stuck me in the eye before. Whatever.”

As their third fight fast approaches in August, Cormier understands that every facet of his two previous meetings with Miocic will be dissected including the eye pokes.

All Cormier can promise is that there has never been a single instance where he’s egregiously attempted to harm Miocic and he certainly wouldn’t wish that on his worst enemy much less someone he respects as much as the reigning UFC heavyweight champion.

“We’re wearing these little gloves and we train with 16-ounce gloves,” Cormier explained. “So sometimes you do things that you do with the 16-ounce gloves that you can’t do with the four-ounce gloves. I don’t purposely try to poke this guy in the face.”

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