UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier isn’t planning to return in 2017 but that doesn’t mean he can’t look ahead to what comes next.
Cormier was crowned champion again just a few weeks ago after Jon Jones was stripped of the title following a positive drug test that was taken a day ahead of their fight at UFC 214 in July.
Jones remains under provisional suspension pending a hearing with the California State Athletic Commission as well as potential arbitration with USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) where he faces up to a four year suspension for the positive drug test.
With Jones out of action for the time being, Cormier has to start looking ahead at what comes next and that likely means facing off with one of two potential opponents.
Alexander Gustafsson, who took Cormier to a split decision in his first title defense, remains one of the top fighters in the world at 205 pounds and he’s fresh off a lopsided win over former title contender Glover Teixeira earlier this year.
Then there’s surging light heavyweight upstart Volkan Oezdemir, who debuted in the UFC earlier this year, has already racked up three wins over top 10 competition including a stunning first round knockout over Jimi Manuwa in July.
For his part, Cormier doesn’t seem to care much who he faces next although he jokingly added that he’d gladly take the easier fight if that was made available to him.
“Oezdemir has looked phenomenal in this run. He beat Ovince Saint-Preux the he knocked out [Misha] Cirkunov and knocked out Jimi Manuwa, who was scheduled as a replacement for me and Jones,” Cormier said during the UFC post fight show this past weekend.
“Gustafsson has always been tough. Gustafsson gave me a very tough time the first time but you have to remember for as good as Gustafsson looked in the [Glover] Teixeira fight when he fought Jan Blachowicz, he did not look that good. So if you’re telling me there’s a chance he fights like he fought against Jan Blachowicz, give me Gustafsson.”
Of course, Cormier wasn’t done messing around with potential opponents as he sat just one seat away from middleweight champion Michael Bisping in the studio.
Cormier admitted that after his fight with Jones in July that was eventually overturned to a no contest, he’d definitely enjoy an easier night at the office.
“Get my feet back under me, something kind of easy — give me Bisping. Give me Bisping!” Cormier said with a smile on his face.
“I’m trying to do some easy work. Give me Bisping.”
All jokes aside, what seems possible is that the UFC may matchup Gustafsson against Oezdemir later this year with the winner then moving onto face Cormier in 2018. Either way, the light heavyweight division is starting to get moving again with or without Jones around while Cormier looks for another defense of his title next year.