UFC 214's Daniel Cormier: This Fight Ain't About Jon Jones, It's About Me
Daniel Cormier is the first to admit he was far too emotionally tied to his first fight with Jon Jones at UFC 182 in 2015.
The current UFC light heavyweight champion had been embroiled in a bitter rivalry with Jones for months leading into the fight, including a brawl that broke out at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas during a press conference to promote their bout. Following that scuffle, the two engaged in an infamous off-camera interview for ESPN that devolved into a heated, expletive-filled exchange.
The constant war of words wore on Cormier, and by the time the fight was finally peeking just around the corner, he was raw from the emotional buildup. The end result was Cormier walking into the Octagon wound so tight that, like a rubber band that's been stretched too far, he finally snapped.
Fast forward more than two years later and Cormier is still no fan of Jones. The turmoil that infected him leading into their first fight, however, has been eradicated from his mind heading into his long-awaited rematch with Jones at UFC 214 in Anaheim, CA, on July 29.
It's tough to explain how Cormier achieved this massive change of mind after seething with hatred for Jones for so long, but he's finally past his rivalry with the former light heavyweight champion. Now, he only sees "Bones" as the next foe standing in his way.
"He doesn't matter. Before, he meant too much to me. Now he doesn't matter," Cormier said when speaking to FloCombat this week. "So I can approach him as if he doesn't matter. He means nothing to me. Jon has no control over me mentally. Jon will have no control over me emotionally. It's just 'he doesn't matter.' I've accepted that and it's allowed me to be more free in everything. In my preparation, in my life, he does not matter to me.
"He's just another victory to me in my title reign. I know it's a bigger one because he beat me before, but he's just another victory in my title reign--a chance to right the wrong from 2015."
As much as the focus on their first fight was built around the disdain shared between Cormier and Jones, the former two-time Olympian also added an extra wrinkle when explaining what went wrong for him leading into that event.
It might sound funny to hear that Cormier "wanted it too much," but that's probably the safest way to explain his shortcomings against Jones in 2015.
Throughout his athletic career, Cormier has been a top-ranked athlete but still came up short in his bid to become a champion at the collegiate level and during two separate runs at the Olympic Games.
Cormier thought that winning the UFC title would finally give him peace of mind, knowing he truly was the best in the world. But when that sentiment was coupled with his rivalry with Jones, it all got to be too much.
A lot has changed since then, not the least of which is that Cormier is now standing tall as the reigning and defending light heavyweight champion. He's finally comfortable in his own skin as the best fighter in the world at 205 pounds.
"I was too excited about becoming a UFC champion," Cormier said. "I'm comfortable in this position now. Every fight has been a five-round fight lately. Every fight's been big. Every fight's been for a title, and I think more than anything that's a big part of it. Knowing that I'm the champion and I've accepted that this fight is my fight.
"This fight ain't about Jon Jones. This fight ain't about becoming the champion. This fight is about me."
On the flipside, Cormier looks at Jones in a much different light now than he ever did before.
Jones is returning to the Octagon for the first time since April 2016, and he's spent the last year on the sidelines after he was suspended following a positive drug test for using a banned substance. That's only the latest setback in a long list of trials and tribulations that has haunted Jones over the past few years.
The UFC even released a magnificent trailer for the upcoming fight on July 29, chronicling Jones' numerous misdeeds including a DUI, a positive test for cocaine ahead of his first fight with Cormier, and an 18-month probation sentence for a hit-and-run accident.
Funny enough, it's actually thanks to a comment made during that promotional piece of video that Cormier confirmed something he's always suspected about Jones, and it's just one more weapon in his arsenal that he'll use at UFC 214.
"[Jones] said something very telling in the promo the other day," Cormier said. "He said, 'I need to win this fight so that I can get my life back.' I mean, I've always said with no basis for knowing that his life is tied to being UFC champion. I said, 'Without the belt, who is he?' And he just confirmed that.
"It cannot be, 'I have to get my life back through a fight.' You should be fighting to become the champion because you're at the top of the sport. You should not be fighting because you have no life without a stupid belt."