Win or Lose at UFC 226, Daniel Cormier is freed from Jon Jones’ Shadow

Daniel Cormier has a routine.

As training camp comes to an end a week before the fight, Daniel begins the more emotional aspect of fight week. Before the weight cut, before the final meal, before the walk to the cage, he first has his cooldown day. He hangs out with his friends from American Kickboxing Academy or plays with students at a local California high school not far from his home. He packs his bags, he kisses his wife and children, and gets on the road to wherever he is fighting.

Then, he tries to escape Jon Jones.

Cormier is one of the most accomplished fighters to ever live. He won three high school state wrestling championships, and finished with a wrestling record of 101-9. He won a bronze medal at the world wrestling championships in Greco-Roman. He was an All-State Linebacker in high school, too. He went on to win the junior college national wrestling championships twice, with a perfect record. He was an All-American. He was team captain of the 2008 USA Olympic wrestling team.

His success translated to MMA, too. Within a year of his professional MMA debut, DC was a two-time champion in Xtreme MMA and KOTC. He signed with Strikeforce, where he entered the heavyweight grand prix, as a massive underdog, and shocked the world, winning the whole damn thing.

Cormier then went to the UFC, beating Frank Mir and Roy Nelson in dominant decisions. He then announced, to avoid conflict with his teammate Cain Velasquez, that he would move down from Heavyweight to Light Heavyweight. He knocked out Pat Cummins and submitted Dan Henderson. He earned his title shot, and he fought Jon Jones at UFC 182.

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Jon Jones is the gum on Daniel Cormier’s shoe that he just can’t get off.

DC was 15-0 entering this fight, with 10 of his wins being finishes, he was already well-accomplished, but the UFC title was what would let him know he made it. After the fight was scrapped due to injury back at UFC 178, the two fighters’ emotions burned as hot as ever, with pushing matches, brutal insults, and pure hatred. It was as much a fight in the mind as it would be in the cage.

Jon Jones showed he was the better fighter.

It was the first time many of us had ever seen DC lose at anything, and it really wasn’t all that close. Sure, he was a formidable opponent, and he did win a round on each judge’s scorecard, but it was a very clear unanimous decision. Daniel had to stop and recover himself.

But then Jon Jones collapsed. A whole host of issues would plague him over the next few years. The hit and run car accident that broke a pregnant woman’s arm, the cocaine, being stripped of the title, etc. In a way, it was a good thing for DC, because he was now able to claim the vacant LHW belt, which he did against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson at UFC 187. He finally had gotten the title, he had finally made it.

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But it had an asterisk. We all knew it.

It wasn’t a title obtained by defeating the champion. Everybody knew that the belt was a sham. Everybody knew that Daniel Cormier wasn’t really the best Light Heavyweight in the world. Even when he beat Alexander Gustafsson in a tremendous fight, the consensus was really, “so when does Jon Jones come back?”

DC knew it wouldn’t be real until he faced his bogeyman again. The second fight was booked for UFC 197, but Daniel sustained an injury in fight camp. Another roadblock. It was quickly rebooked for UFC 200, scheduled to be the biggest card in UFC history.

Then the steroids happened.

In a weird way, this seemed to dent Jon Jones more than the felonies did. His legacy was now tarnished, too. He seemed to be the ultimate bad guy. That’s at least what he was to Cormier. But the fans, oddly enough, stuck with Jones, and still pushed against Cormier. When the rematch finally came to a head at UFC 214 in Anaheim, Jones was joyously received back while Cormier was booed. To them, Jones was still the rightful champion, even after DC’s two more wins over Anderson Silva and Anthony Johnson.

The fight started off well. DC was bringing the pressure to Jon, he was aggressive in the clinch, landing hard shots, and probably even one the first round. Things looked decent in the second, too, and the third, until he got wobbled, and head kicked, and pounded on, and finished.

The gum was back.

He couldn’t do it. He just couldn’t take care of Jon. He had his number. Photos of Daniel crying post fight became a meme among the mainstream.

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But then came the steroids again.

The fight was declared a no-contest. Jon Jones couldn’t really claim tainted supplement as an excuse again. He would be gone for a long time. Cormier was champion again. He defended his title again. Jon Jones’ legacy was officially tainted, and with that, Cormier was finally freed from it, at least to a large group of MMA fans.

On July 7th, Daniel Cormier fights Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight title. If he was to win, he would be only the second person ever, the other being Conor McGregor, to hold simultaneous UFC belts. This transcends Jon Jones. This is something bigger. With this fight, win or lose, Daniel Cormier will show that he has moved on, that he stands tall while Jon Jones lays in hiding far away from the spotlight.

But whether Cormier himself is convinced of this fact remains to be seen, and to be honest, I would guess he isn’t.

 

 

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