Daniel Cormier, a two-time Olympian in men’s freestyle wrestling and current UFC light heavyweight champion, will serve as the Honorary Chairman of the 2016 World Cup of Freestyle Wrestling, set for The Forum in Los Angeles, June 11-12.
Cormier will be supporting the promotional efforts for the World Cup and encouraging the public to come out to see the action, which will feature the top eight men’s freestyle nations in action.
The U.S. World Cup team will include all six of the 2016 U.S. Olympic freestyle wrestlers. Many of the other nations will also include their 2016 Olympic athletes on their rosters.
“It is a great opportunity. You get to see guys in the final stages of their preparation. During off-Olympic years, you may get to see guys who are not peaked. This is in the phase of when they are peaking for the Olympic Games, two months before the competition. The foreign wrestlers will also be in peak condition. Not only will you get to see our guys at their best, but you get to see them competing against some of the best wrestlers in the world at their peak. It is very rare that we get that kind of opportunity here in the United States,” said Cormier.
This is the third straight year which the World Cup has been held in Los Angeles and hosted at The Forum. Cormier joins two other former wrestlers and major public figures who have served as Honorary Chairman of the World Cup.
In 2014, award-winning actor Billy Baldwin was the Honorary Chairman. In 2015, Stephen Neal, a World champion wrestler and three-time Super Bowl champion with the NFL New England Patriots, served as the Honorary Chairman.
Cormier had a successful career in international freestyle wrestling. He was a member of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team, which competed in Athens, Greece, as well as the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team, which competed in Beijing, China. Cormier placed fourth at the 2004 Olympic Games. He was a 2007 World bronze medalist and placed fifth in the 2003 World Championships. He wrestled on six straight U.S. World or Olympic Teams, and won six straight U.S. Open national titles.
Cormier, who follows international wrestling closely in spite of his busy schedule as a UFC athlete and a television commentator, is excited about the U.S. team which will compete at the World Cup and at the Olympic Games.
“We have an amazing team this year. A chance to see them live is something you can’t get back after it’s gone. We have one of the better Olympic teams that we have had in a long time,” said Cormier.
A native of Lafayette, La., Cormier was a two-time NJCAA Junior College national champion for Colby CC in Kansas. He went on to Oklahoma State, where he placed second in the 2001 NCAA Div. I Championships, competing for two-time Olympic champion John Smith.
The 37-year-old Cormier trains at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose alongside fellow UFC standouts such as Cain Velasquez and Luke Rockhold. Since moving to California, he has been impressed by the quality of the wrestling and the culture of the sport in the state.
“Wrestling in California is huge. The state championships draws massive numbers. I have a youth wrestling club, and every weekend, we wrestle in massive tournaments. The kids get to wrestle five, six times a weekend. In the LA area, this is a big deal, for people to be able to see wrestling at such a high level. The last time I was at the World Cup at the Forum, it was amazing. You can feel the history of the building. The team went out and had a fantastic performance. It will be a big crowd. People should not miss this opportunity to see the best in the world,” said Cormier.
Cormier won a silver medal at the 2005 World Cup which was held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
“It is the history of the event that make it special. It dates back as far as I can remember. Some of the greatest American wrestlers have won the World Cup. It is a very prestigious event. The World Cup is different than other international events. It brings you back to your days in high school wrestling and college wrestling when you wrestle in dual meets. Your result directly affects the team and its ability to win. I only wrestled in one World Cup, with six years on the World Team and eight years on the national team. It was a great experience,” said Cormier.
He is excited that wrestling, his favorite sport, will be showcased once again in Los Angeles, the U.S. bid city for the 2024 Olympic Games. Having been on two Olympic teams (2004 in Athens and 2008 in Beijing), Cormier would to see the Olympics hosted in the United States once again.
“LA right now is a great sports city. The World Cup will show that Olympic sports can draw people. We have not had an Olympics in LA since 1984. If the Olympics go back to LA, it will be great. LA is a huge city, a sports city. The people in LA would love it. This is a chance to show that the city can host an Olympic-level competition and be successful. Los Angeles is so diverse. You have everybody in Los Angeles. You have a ton of different cultures in the LA area,” said Cormier.
Cormier has excelled in his Mixed Martial Arts career, compiling an impressive 17-1 record while competing at heavyweight and light heavyweight.
Cormier will not be able to attend the World Cup this year due to training. Cormier is currently preparing for the UFC light heavyweight title fight against Jon “Bones” Jones at UFC 200, which will be held in Las Vegas, Nev. on July 9. This is a huge fight, as both of these former wrestlers have held the UFC title belt during their careers. Jones beat Cormier in their only previous battle by decision, a title match during UFC 182 on January 3, 2015.
“Preparation is going great. I have had Ed Ruth in training camp to wrestle, Deron Winn in training camp to wrestle. I’ve got a kid from Iowa State coming in to wrestle also. I am wrestling with the best guys I can find to emulate Jon Jones. (Khadjimurad) Gatsalov of Russia was the best wrestler I ever wrestled, but he didn’t have the type of style and the funky ability of Jones. Ed Ruth is a wiry, tricky wrestler. I am bringing in guys who can give me that feel. I was outwrestled the last fight. He pushed me against the fence and took me down two or three times. That is not happening again,” said Cormier.
Cormier has helped with the World Cup in Los Angeles in the past, serving as the Honorary U.S. Team Captain in 2014, sitting with the team mat side and providing support to the athletes and coaches.
The World Cup is the annual international dual meet championships, as the eight best men’s freestyle teams will compete against each other. At the 2016 World Cup, the United States will be joined by (alphabetically): Azerbaijan, Georgia, India, Iran, Mongolia, Russia and Turkey. Lineups for the other seven teams in the World Cup will be announced shortly.
The United States is slated to face Iran, Azerbaijan and India in Group B competition. Russia headlines a tough Group A pool that also includes Georgia, Turkey and Mongolia.