Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley summed up the collective feelings of the MMA community in regards to this weekend’s UFC 214 Pay-Per-View when asked about his title defense against Demian Maia, which serves as the penultimate fight of the evening.
“Would I like a rivalry like these two gentlemen have, that really makes people excited about the fight?” he asked, referencing light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and former champ Jon Jones, who will finally meet for a second time in the main event of Saturday’s blockbuster event at Honda Center in Anaheim. “Of course – that puts you in a position where you’re remembered. I think every great champion needs that rivalry, rematch, trilogy that gets people talking about them.
“I’m fighting on a phenomenal card; this is a crazy point in history. Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones have one of the most authentic rivalries that we’ve ever seen in our sport outside of Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz and, to be honest, I’m just trying to get the party started. I’m trying to be the hype man. I’m going out there trying to do fast work on my opponent so I can actually get through my interviews and watch the fight.”
What’s interesting about the anticipation surrounding Saturday’s light heavyweight champion fight is that after being linked together for a number of years and having already shared the Octagon for 25 minutes, Cormier has reached a point where he’s ready to stop talking and start fighting.
The pair have gone back-and-forth in countless interviews, responded to questions about the other non-stop and readied for each other numerous times in the past, only to have the contest fall through at the 11th hour on various different occasions. Now, with their rematch just a handful of days away, the reigning light heavyweight champion is focused exclusively on turning this into a real rivalry.
“I think it has gotten a bit old because we’ve had to do this on so many different occasions,” Cormier said of promoting a grudge match with Jones. “But as I’ve said time and time again – this rivalry is a rivalry when I win the fight this weekend. If I don’t win the fight, it’s no rivalry; it’s just two guys that were fighting on more than one occasion.
“It’s gotten a little bit old because we’ve done it so many times, but outside of that, to me, I feel this is the highest level of mixed martial arts that people can experience.”
While Jones threw a monkey wrench into the usual to-and-fro between the light heavyweight combatants by actually agreeing with Cormier that this isn’t a rivalry, it’s obvious from the detailed answers the former champion gave throughout Monday’s conference call that this fight means something more to him than any other fight.
Early on, Jones suggested this fight has nothing to do with Cormier – that it is entirely about his legacy and returning to the top of the light heavyweight division – but as the questions continued, the Team Jackson-Wink standout shifted his focus to the former Olympian’s comments on his character and focus on his outside of the cage issues, areas that clearly have struck a nerve with the former champion.
“This whole thing has become an attack on Jon Jones’ character,” said the former champion. “I feel like when Daniel loses, he’ll be able to say, ‘Well I’m a good guy. I’m a good guy and at least people will respect me for being a good champion when I had that belt in Jon’s absence.
“And I think he deserves respect because he is a good guy, but you don’t have to s*** on other people to try to make yourself seem that much better, Daniel. We see that you’re a good person. Just look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘He’s younger than me, he’s athletic and he beat my ass and he’s going to do it again. Don’t try to crush somebody else’s image to make yourself more mighty.”
In addition to the light heavyweight and welterweight championship bouts, Saturday’s event will also see a new women’s featherweight titleholder crowned as Brazilian standout Cris Cyborg squares off with Invicta FC bantamweight champ Tonya Evinger.
“I think we’re two dominant champions,” said Evinger, who is undefeated in her last 11 contests and has been nearly as dominant under the Invicta FC banner as Cyborg was during her time in the all-female organization. “I think this is a superfight and a fight that could have happened a long time ago and one to watch.”
Cormier and Jones may be receiving the lion’s share of the attention, but the two additional championship fights are outstanding as well and, on the whole, UFC 214 is poised to be the biggest event of the year.