When Daniel Cormier beat Dan Henderson at UFC 173 in May and said that he was willing to wait for a shot at light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, he didn’t expect the call would come within two months.
But it did, bright and early on Wednesday morning, when “DC” was informed that Alexander Gustafsson had suffered a knee injury that forced him out of his September 27 rematch with Jones at UFC 178 in Las Vegas. Now that’s a wake-up call.
“I was very excited but I had to speak to my coaches to make sure they were okay with the time frame and everything else, and they were, so we’re like ‘let’s fight,’” said Cormier Wednesday evening, shortly after the news went public that Jones vs. Cormier will headline the MGM Grand Garden event this Fall. “I thought I’d wait until January, February, but sometimes things just work out for a reason and they just happen. I hope Alexander gets healthy fast and we’ll get two big fights.”
First things first, and that’s the unbeaten Cormier against the pound-for-pound king in Jones. It’s a fight Cormier – a former heavyweight contender – has called for from the moment he made the move to 205 pounds, and it’s one Jones also wanted, taking some heat from fans when he said he preferred fighting Cormier to a rematch with Gustafsson, who gave “Bones” his toughest test as a pro last September.
Now both get their wish, and while there has been plenty of talk between the two for a while, the two-time United States Olympic wrestler doesn’t dismiss what the youngest champion in UFC history brings to the table.
“I think he’s the best fighter in the world, pound-for-pound,” said Cormier of Jones. “I think his skills would translate over a number of divisions. In terms of his skill in the cage, I think he’s awesome. He’s an unbelievable fighter and he’s leading that charge of this new generation of fighters, the guys that are athletic, and that could play other sports but choose to fight. He’s an unbelievable fighter and I respect him a ton.”
And while the 6-foot-4 Jones holds a sizable height and reach advantage over the 5-foot-11 Cormier, the champion – who won a junior college national title in wrestling – has always liked to test his mat game against more decorated challengers. You can’t get more decorated than an Olympian, and Cormier would be more than happy to welcome Jones into his world.
“He (Jones) has to test his wrestling,” said the Louisiana native. “If he doesn’t use his wrestling, he becomes very limited. That’s why the fight with Gustafsson was so close; he couldn’t use his wrestling. So he has to try and use it. Is it going to matter? No. He’s not going to outwrestle me; that’s not ever going to happen. But he will test himself, even though I don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference.”
Jones-Gustafsson 2 promised to be a great fight, but this one has the potential to be even better. The announcement was the perfect end to a hectic news day in the UFC universe, but Cormier, one of the good guys of the game, offered to help lighten the work load by letting us know what we’ll be writing the morning after UFC 178.
“September 28th, you’re going to be writing what a performance Daniel Cormier put on at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas,” he said. “You’re going to say ‘it was as if everything came together at the perfect time, and he fought a fight that nobody could have imagined would take place.’ The reactions will be like they were after TJ Dillashaw versus Renan Barao on May 24th.”
Christmas Comes Early for Daniel Cormier
“September 28th, you’re going to be writing what a performance Daniel Cormier put on at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas." - Daniel Cormier
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Saturday, December 3
Las Vegas, Nevada