Press conferences filled with trash talk and one-liners are wildly entertaining. Face-offs where the combatants get heated and a scuffle ensues always energize the crowd. Media calls where the participants snap out verbal jabs and utter declarations about the destruction that will come seven or eight days later generate scintillating headlines and make getting excited for what is about to transpire a little easier.
Sizzle is important, but UFC 210 is one of those rare occasions where the headlining acts aren’t particularly concerned with taking aim at one another through the press and saying outlandish things in order to fire up the masses. Though they’re headed to the birthplace of Buffalo wings, the four men that will close out next weekend’s Pay-Per-View card at KeyBank Center are far more interested in focusing on the stakes at hand than anything else.
That was the grand takeaway from Thursday’s media conference call featuring light heavyweight title combatants Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson and the two men scheduled to meet in the co-main event, former middleweight champ Chris Weidman and surging contender Gegard Mousasi.
While Michael Bisping caught a little heat, none of the fighters set to step into the Octagon on Apr. 8 had a disparaging word to say about their opponent, instead using their time to remind those asking the questions and everyone waiting on the responses that their current opponent is their sole focus and the only thing that matters.
“I only can control what I can control – I don’t worry about the things that I can’t control,” Weidman said when asked about the state of the middleweight division and his place within it heading into next Saturday’s showdown with Mousasi. “I can control me beating Mousasi on April 8; that’s all I’m focused on.”
“I need to get this win – that’s the most important – and I’m ready. I’m more than ready,” added the streaking Dutch standout, who carries a four-fight winning streak with three straight finishes into his meeting with the former champion. “At the end of the day, I need to win. I need to do my job first and we’ll see how it goes.”
The sentiment was the same from the main event combatants who meet for a second time with the light heavyweight title hanging in the balance.
Their first encounter at UFC 187, which came together in less than a month and was for the vacant title, started with a bang and looked poised to end before the first two minutes had expired, as Johnson sent Cormier tumbling to the floor after landing a devastating right hand. To his credit, Cormier weathered the storm and went on the attack, ultimately wearing down “Rumble” and submitting him midway through the third frame to claim the title.
Both have been outstanding since, with Cormier registering a gutsy win over Alexander Gustafsson in his first title defense before adding a win over Anderson Silva at UFC 200 to his resume, while Johnson has iced Jimi Manuwa, Ryan Bader and Glover Teixeira in a combined seven minutes and change to return to the role of title challenger next weekend.
Despite their history, recent performances and standing as the unquestioned top active competitors in the division, both champion and challenger had to reiterate time and again that the only fight they’re thinking about right now is the one set to take place next weekend in Buffalo.
“I can’t really worry about what’s next because even though I believe the path to victory is in my favor, his one way of winning is very dangerous,” Cormier said of Johnson, speaking from first-hand experience. “He could actually knock me out in no time – that’s a big possibility – so I’m just worried about Anthony.
“I can’t waste my energy any more on a guy that hasn’t been around and truly cannot be trusted to be eligible to fight,” he added in regards to Jon Jones, the former champion and Cormier’s chief rival, who continues to cast a long shadow over the division despite his absence.
“Jon hasn’t crossed my mind at all or what’s after this fight,” said Johnson, faced with the same question about “Bones” and the future beyond UFC 210. “I’m focused on Daniel and that’s all I need to focus on right now. I’ll think about whoever and whatever on April 9, maybe April 10.”
Rather than running down their opponents, each man spoke highly of their impending adversary – Cormier praising Johnson’s repertoire; “Rumble” calling the champion a “great athlete” with a great chin; Weidman and Mousasi admitting that a victory won’t come easy and is the crucial to unlocking future opportunities.
It was refreshing and served to set the stage for these two outstanding matchups that will close out UFC 210, even if there were no incendiary comments or shouting matches that lit up social media.