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Daniel Cormier’s sparring partner predicts ‘agonizing’ night for Stipe Miocic at UFC 252

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Tiago Beowulf (right) helped Daniel Cormier prepare for his retirement bout with Stipe Miocic.
Photo via Tiago Beowulf

Tiago Beowulf was taken down and beat up for the past few months as Daniel Cormier prepared for his last MMA fight, a trilogy clash with Stipe Miocic for the UFC heavyweight championship on Aug. 15. Beowulf also is confident enough to make a guarantee - Cormier will walk away from the sport with gold around his waist.

Cormier started his camp in April, back when the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading quickly — and still respected by authorities — that gyms around the United States were closed. Beowulf, a decorated kickboxer from Brazil, was one of the only men around DC at the time, basically holding pads for him in parking lots and hotel rooms.

“It was chaotic and wonderful at the same time,” Beowulf said in an interview with MMA Fighting. Cormier ended up building a gym in his garage, and later added heavyweight Tony Johnson to his group of training partners ahead of UFC 252 when American Kickboxing Academy was allowed to open its doors again.

Daniel Cormier had to adapt his training during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Photo via Tiago Beowulf

It’s finally time to enter the octagon for his retirement bout, a five-round bout for the UFC strap, and Beowulf has never seen Cormier this focused.

“For real, he’s different from every other athlete I’ve ever seen,” Beowulf said. “The attention he pays to the smallest of the details is amazing. How to secure a takedown using the less amount of power… He got an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling to help him with small details. For an Olympic team captain, one of the best wrestlers in U.S. history, to call someone to help with details like that, that was incredible.

“He always says the same thing: ‘I’m a better athlete than Miocic, I have many more qualities than him, and I will win.’ And you see that in the gym, the way he trains.”

Cormier got the best of Miocic in the first fight in July 2018, finishing him in the opening round to capture the UFC belt. DC was ahead in all scorecards going into the championship rounds in the rematch a year later, but Miocic came back to knock him out in the fourth.

“I’ll tell you this, it’s going to be agonizing for Miocic because (Cormier) is visceral,” Beowulf said. “He’s so hungry to win he doesn’t waste any time, he goes to war. You see how big of a competitor he is in the gym. One day I had the best sparring session ever with him, and he destroyed me in the next one [laughs].

“He always reinvents himself in sparring. If he gets taken down in sparring, he’ll defend that takedown in the next session and then take you down. He’s very, very competitive. He works on every single detail and there’s just no mistake, no flaws. He’s incredible.”

With time, however, that visceral athlete showed another side of him, a sweet, heartfelt friend outside the gym.

Beowulf made a name for himself in the Brazilian kickboxing circuit for a decade, but had to put an end in his professional career in 2016 after suffering multiple injuries, including a pair of foot fractures. He was already planning a transition to a role as a coach when the second fracture happened, so it was like divine intervention.

The striker moved full-time to the United States in 2018 and has been working as a head coach at New Jersey’s Strategy gym since Sept. 2019, flying to California every time Cormier has a bout coming.

Beowulf first visited the United States in 2017 to learn English and improve as a trainer, visiting Duane Ludwig’s team in Denver before traveling to California to spend some time at AKA. Cormier was out of town when he arrived, as DC was preparing to rematch Jon Jones later that week.

None of the big AKA stars were there, actually. Khabib Nurmagomedov, Cain Velasquez and Luke Rockhold did not show up for some time, so Beowulf spent three weeks teaching less-popular talents.

Two days before Beowulf was set to fly back to his home country, Cormier finally showed up.

It was Thursday morning when Cormier walked by the Brazilian in the AKA headquarters, and Beowulf could not believe he was standing next to one of the best to ever do it. When someone came up and introduced him to the UFC star, saying “this is the kickboxer, he’s going to help you a lot for your fights because he has a good style, he moves and strikes well,” Cormier already had his gloves on.

“I finally met DC and he invited me to spar right away, a light training, and he enjoyed it,” Beowulf said. “In my head I was like, ‘holy sh*t, I’m training with DC, I’m sparring with the guy.’ I’m a big fan of his.

“I had never done a hard sparring in MMA with an athlete like him before, so I was exhausted by the end of the first round. He took me down and killed me. ‘Leandrinho’ (Vieira) turned to me and asked, ‘can you do another round?’ I said, ‘I can’t even move.’ DC said, ‘no, let’s do another one.’ I thought, ‘man, this guy is pure evil, what the f*ck am I doing here?’ And when the second round started he came and started touching me, letting me move around and breathe, I saw we had the same vibe, you know? He’s a nice guy with a good heart, he wasn’t a jerk, you know?”

Beowulf could barely speak English at the time, though. He only knew a few words, and would repeat them non-stop.

“Amazing.”

Did you like the food? “Amazing.”

Are you enjoying the city? “It’s amazing.”

It’s no surprise that “amazing” ended up becoming his nickname in the gym.

Tiago Beowulf trains with Daniel Cormier at American Kickboxing Academy.
Photo via Tiago Beowulf

Beowulf joined Cormier’s camp for Volkan Oezdemir and then the first Miocic fight, a pair of knockout wins for the Olympic wrestler’s record, before staying at the two-division UFC champion’s house for his UFC 230 camp, a heavyweight title defense opposite Derrick Lewis.

Cormier was already his “brother” by then, making random phone calls to suggest movies and TV series and tell about the celebrities he met the day before. And as Cormier approaches such a pivotal moment in his life, Beowulf believes he’s ready to walk away and never look back.

“For everything I’ve seen and what’s at stake… DC is an athlete since he’s a teenager, it’s a whole life dedicated to sports, training, takedowns, beatings, and he’s fighting MMA for 10 years now,” Beowulf said. “Every camp is so demanding, and he’s 41. Money isn’t so interesting for him anymore. He has achieved so much of what he wanted. He’s a color commentator and works for ESPN now, so I think this competition ambition ends with a win over Miocic because Miocic was one of the greatest heavyweight champions.

“He beat Miocic the first time and wants to prove he’s the better athlete. After this, he has nothing left to prove to anyone.”