In mixed martial arts there are many fighters who have trouble dealing with a loss and pine for a rematch. And then there are fighters who can barely tolerate a loss and see a rematch as the key to their happiness and sense of professional well-being. And then there are fighters who obsess over a loss and fixate on the idea of a rematch until it rises to the level of pathology. And then there’s Daniel Cormier.
Ever since losing to Jon Jones two years ago, Cormier has won the UFC light-heavyweight belt; beaten the man who gave Jones his hardest fight, Alexander Gustafsson; and defeated Anderson Silva, arguably the best mixed martial artist of all time. But none of that seems to be enough for him. Cormier’s one professional loss gnaws at him like a sickness. He’s got a Jon Jones-shaped hole in his heart, and it won’t be filled until the two men fight again. Daniel Cormier is monomaniacal. He’s possessed.
Yesterday on Fox Sports’ The Herd, Cormier told host Colin Cowherd that his preoccupation with a Jon Jones rematch is all consuming, that it transcends even the regulatory concerns and legal guidelines of the UFC and its anti-doping partner, the USADA. Cormier said that even when he found out Jones had failed a drug test ahead of their scheduled rematch at UFC 200 he was willing and ready to fight him.
“Honestly, when that whole thing happened in July, I would have fought him two days later,” Cormier said. “It doesn’t matter. I just want to fight. I’m there to fight, and because of our history and I’m a competitor and I need to get back that. That means so much to me at my core that I’ve got to get it back.
“My life and career would not be okay if I had to walk away and not share the Octagon again with that man.”
“So you’re willing,” Cowherd asked, just to be sure, “even if you thought maybe he was being elevated by a performance-enhancing drugs …”
“I’d fight him,” Cormier said. And with that the former Olympian leapt out of the world of the athlete and into literary territory, into the realm of true artistic obsession, joining the likes of Captain Ahab, Inspector Javert, Humbert Humbert, and Jay Gatsby.
For most mixed martial artists, winning a UFC championship is an achievement that brings with it a certain quieting of the mind, the peace that comes with the accomplishment of longtime, even lifelong, goals. But instead of quieting the need inside Daniel Cormier, being the UFC light heavyweight champion seems to have only roused it and amplified it. After all, Jones never lost his belt in the cage (he was stripped of the belt by the UFC on April 28, 2015, following a hit-and-run accident in Albuquerque) and his last fight as champion was the unanimous decision over Cormier, so for as long as the two men are drawing breath but haven’t fought a rematch Jones can say that he has proven himself a better fighter than Daniel Cormier, no matter who’s wearing what belt. Which for a man like Cormier is clearly the source of bottomless self-immolation and the cause of innumerable sleepless nights. Watching Cormier on The Herd yesterday I had to wonder, on those nights he does sleep, does the UFC champion always dream of Jon Jones? I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Such is the depth of his obsession; such is the poetry of his preoccupation.
Which means if Jones’ personal animosity toward Cormier is anywhere near the severity and depth of Cormier’s toward Jones, maybe the best thing Jon Jones could do is to continue doing what he’s doing: finding ways (anatomical, hormonal, legal) to put off fighting Cormier for as long as he can. Surely he wants his title back but for a true competitor isn’t there more joy to be found in the perpetual antagonizing and minimizing of an archrival than in a thousand shiny gold belts?
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