Daniel Cormier knows he could fight well beyond his 40th birthday, but perhaps that’s why he’s set a time limit on his career with plans to retire in 2019.
Ahead of his fight with Volkan Oezdemir this past weekend at UFC 220, Cormier spoke at length about his expiration date in the sport, but not because his body was wearing down or he just didn’t have a passion for mixed martial arts any longer.
Instead, Cormier is ready to turn his attention towards his children, who are growing up fast and don’t have him around as much because he’s been so focused on his own career.
Of course, Cormier knows he could easily fight for three or four more years and probably still do so at the top levels of the sport, but his biggest goal in life is to be a great father and husband and that trumps all the gold belts and big paychecks the UFC might provide him.
“It’s something that I can say because the truth of the matter is it’s not like I don’t have much time left. As you see with guys like [Fabricio] Werdum, who’s still at the top of the sport, Mark Hunt is still fighting, Anderson Silva is still fighting; I have time,” Cormier explained. “If I chose to fight to 42 or 43, I could. It’s just a personal preference of mine to be done by the time I was 40, especially when I started having kids.
“My boy is going to be 7 in February; my daughter’s going to be 6 in March. By the time I turn 40, they’ll be 8 and 7 and it will be time for me to start putting that focus on my children and their athletic careers. I know it seems young, but with the goals that my kids have for themselves and the goals I have for them, they’re going to have to be committed and it’s tough when dad has to be at the gym every day from 12 to 2 and from 7 to 8 and up at seven in the morning. I don’t mind. I don’t mind making the commitment to the kids. I’ve spent my whole life with the focus being about me and my athletics. It’s not an issue. It’s not hard to think about putting that focus on my children.”
Cormier is the reigning and defending light heavyweight champion and put on arguably one of the best performances of his career at UFC 220 this past weekend when he dismantled highly touted knockout artist Volkan Oezdemir in less than two rounds.
Outside of his setback to Jon Jones, Cormier has been unblemished in his fighting career with no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Still, Cormier has thought long and hard about setting an end date around his 40th birthday in March 2019 as the time when he will pull the plug on his own career.
“I started fighting when I was turning 31 years old. So I’ve only been fighting for seven or eight years. I just didn’t take long to get to the top of the sport, so I’ve been around at the top of the sport for so long, so people just kind of associate that with being in the sport for a long time. I was fighting [Antonio] “Bigfoot” Silva a year and a half into my career,” Cormier explained. “That’s why it seems like I’ve been around so long. Randy Couture started at the same time as me and he went until he was 47. It’s just my preference.
“If I felt like at 40, I was forced out the door, but I feel like I would be going of my own choosing to cap off my career at a young age to where I can give my kids 100-percent focus on what they’re doing.”
There’s also something to be said about the opportunity to leave the sport as champion.
Cormier doesn’t seem to have many great challenges left outside of a potential rematch with Jones and that’s all dependent upon how long he’ll be sitting on the sidelines due to a potential suspension after testing positive for steroids last July.
It’s possible Jones gets a slap on the wrist and could return before Cormier retires, but there’s also a chance he’s staring down a potential four-year suspension from the sport.
In either case, Cormier loves the idea of going out on top, but whether he has the UFC belt or Jones has returned by 2019, he’s ready to call it a career next year.
“Not many guys get to go out on top. Not many guys go out there, fight, win, get a belt wrapped around their waist, and then say I think this is it,” Cormier said. “It’s just not reality for most of our champions. It’s the same in boxing. It’s the story of combat sports. I think professional wrestling does it best and I know it’s scripted, but that’s the best story. The older guy has to put over the younger guy, the guy that’s going to carry the flag into the next generation. In MMA, it almost feels like it happens the same way.
“Your greatest champions get beat and then they go onto become the next great champion. The only one that has really done it is Georges St-Pierre and I applaud him for it.”
Cormier knows that every fighter has an expiration date, but most continue competing long past when it’s probably a good idea.
Even Cormier admits that it’s going to be tough to give up that adrenaline rush that only comes from stepping into the Octagon about to do battle with another fighter, but everybody has to walk away at some point and he’s resolved in his decision to call it a career next year.
“It will get you. It will eat you up and spit you out,” Cormier said. “Guys are chasing that rush. We’re thrill seekers. Why else would guys go in there and fight? When it feels like that thrill is about to be taken away, people panic. You just have to relax and be okay with what’s next.”