There have been two somewhat contradictory trains of thought among mixed martial arts fans since last week’s announcement that Daniel Cormier has been restored to UFC light heavyweight champion status.
The first is that the move, on paper, makes sense. Jones’ UFC 214 title victory over Cormier on July 29 was overturned to a no-contest by the California State Athletic Commission in the wake of Jones’ failed drug test, and champions don’t lose their titles via no-contest.
The second is that, no matter how technically accurate the idea of restoring Cormier to the title might be, nothing erases the visual of Jones head-kicking Cormier for the initial victory on July 29 in Anaheim. As such, it’s going to take awhile to warm up to the idea of Cormier as champ again.
As it turns out, Cormier himself agrees with both sentiments. On the 400th episode of The MMA Hour, Cormier admitted that the whole situation is a little weird.
“I am the champion, because if I didn’t get a fair shake, that’s not cool,” Cormier said. “But I know that I lost the last fight, so I have to fix that before I can feel completely secure in my title.”
Cormier’s detractors are having a field day on Twitter taking jabs at Cormier’s championship status, but the truth is, no one is taking what transpired in the cage at UFC 214 tougher than Cormier himself, regardless of what might have been in Jones’ system.
“I am [champion] because the competition was unfair, but I guess it doesn’t count because I know what UFC 214 was,” Cormier said. “I experienced it myself. I was there, and in my mind I lost the competition. So it’s kind of an odd question right now under the circumstances. I have a bunch of people who really truly care for me and love me and my wife, my management, they’re very upset I didn’t get a fair shake, I guess, but they’re all easy to answer that question, but for me, the competitor, it is very difficult.”
Cormier got the news from UFC president Dana White just minutes before going on the air for a recent UFC Tonight on FOX Sports 1, and according to the champion, even that conversation was awkward.
“We were at UFC Tonight in our production meeting,” Cormier said, “and five minutes before the show, Dana calls and goes, ‘hey, it’s your show, you get to break the news.’ He goes, ‘you know, it’s been called a no-contest and you’re once again the UFC champion.’ Now, Dana and I have a pretty good relationship, you know? So he goes, ‘Congratulations. I know this is not how you want to hear that, but congratulations.’ And that was pretty much all the time I had because I was going on the air, but, it was just odd. People want to congratulate you because it’s a huge accomplishment, but they know me, so it’s almost like I’m walking on eggshells, because it’s about just how I am, I’m a very competitive person.”
When Cormier first won the title at UFC 187, he defeated Anthony Johnson to fill a vacancy created by a Jones suspension. It took Cormier time to be accepted by many as a real champ — and that was with him defeating someone to win the belt, rather than having it given to him in the wake of a commission ruling. So Cormier, who sees a rematch with Alexander Gustafsson, a fight with up-and-comer Volkan Oezdemir, or even a matchup with former champ Shogun Rua as next on his plate — knows he’s going to have to go through the process all over again.
“I think things will be better and I will feel better about the belt and everything again when I fight and defend it,” Cormier said. “Then I can feel better. Then I can feel better because, I don’t care what anyone said, I lost the last fight, you know? I know I lost. I was there. I was in the Octagon, and then I was out of the Octagon and I don’t quite remember what happened in between.”