When UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier asked fans last month who he should fight next, few expected Volkan Oezdemir to really outshine Alexander Gustafsson in the voting department. After all, Gustafsson is widely considered the best light heavyweight fighter in the world outside of Cormier and nemesis Jon Jones.
Unfortunately for “The Mauler,” Oezdemir apparently got the votes needed to earn the next shot at Cormier’s 205-pound crown. At least that’s according to the champ himself.
When Cormier was asked about his decision to put his next title defense to a vote among fight fans, “DC” took aim at Gustafsson and his ability, or lack thereof, to bring in major pay-per-view (PPV) numbers.
“It was me [who decided to do the voting polls]. I was like man, let’s see where the interest is,” Cormier said during a recent edition of his Talk and Talker podcast. “Look, there are a lot of people that want to see me fight Alexander Gustafsson. And I would fight Alexander again. Y’know, he’s a tough guy. Another guy who I have a tremendous amount of respect for. But it’s a fight we’ve seen before. Truth of the matter is, that fight with Alex in all the fights that I’ve done — the two [Jon] Jones’ fights that have done tremendous at the box office, the pay-per-views. The Anderson Silva fight obviously at UFC 200 did amazing pay-per-views. The two Rumble [Johnson] fights did really well pay-per-view wise. The only fight that I’ve truly, truly, struggled with was Gustafsson.”
Remember, Cormier and Gustafsson went toe-to-toe for 25 minutes back at UFC 192 with “DC” coming out on top in a competitive split decision. While many people would love to see Gustafsson take another crack at the UFC champ, especially considering he nearly finished Cormier with a brutal knee in the first fight, Cormier isn’t convinced the rematch would do great numbers.
“We did no business,” Cormier explained. “So, revisiting that [Gustafsson] fight right now would be something that would push me competitively because he is who he is but — I keep getting stuff like, ‘I want to fight Volkan [Oezdemir] because it’s easier, but Gustafsson is the money fight.’ Well, the reality is Gustafsson really isn’t the money fight. Even when he fought Jon, the pay-per-views did very bad. He just has this cult following. When they did the EA Sports vote, he got put on the cover of the video game, but then it doesn’t equate to pay-per-view buys. Which sucks. Because if it did, I’d be like, ‘Hey, put Gustafsson up there right now.’”
Is Cormier right? Would a rematch with Gustafsson produce weaker PPV numbers than a title defense opposite a fairly unknown contender like Oezdemir?
With all due respect to “No Time,” Gustafsson is undoubtedly the bigger draw right now. Despite Oezdemir’s recent knockout success he’s still flying under the radar when it comes to casual fight fans who would shell out $60 to see a fight.
In that sense, “Mauler” is the man for Cormier. The first meeting was so close that a rematch would spark considerable interest across various markets. Nothing has been made official as of yet, so it’s possible that UFC doesn’t share the same monetary outlook at Cormier and ultimately opts for the rematch with Gustafsson.