There’s a lot of hype surrounding the pending champion vs. champion UFC 226 main event between heavyweight titleholder Stipe Miocic and light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier, but does Cormier really deserve a shot at the belt when Alexander Gustafsson has been waiting in the wings for the better part of the past year?
After all, Cormier nearly lost his belt to Jon Jones in July of 2017, only to get it back when Jones’ victory over him was ruled a no contest due to a Jones anti-doping violation.
Cormier certainly feels he deserves a shot at the UFC heavyweight champion, if only because of what he did in the division several years ago, but he may not be inclined to give Gustafsson the next shot at him after the Miocic fight… depending upon how the next few months play out.
Did Daniel Cormier Earn a UFC Heavyweight Title Shot?
Cormier first made his mark on the mixed martial arts world when he was an alternate in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, a tournament that featured the likes of Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, Andrei Arlovsk, Josh Barnett, and Fabricio Werdum, amongst others.
Cormier won his reserve bout against Jeff Monson before being called into the tournament, where he defeated Silva and then Barnett to become the Strikeforce champion.
He then moved over the UFC, where he defeated Frank Mir and Roy Nelson before dropping to light heavyweight in order to make room for teammate Cain Velasquez in the UFC heavyweight division.
Cormier has since lost only one fight, to Jones in early 2015. He has defeated all other comers to become the UFC light heavyweight champion.
“I feel like I earned that title shot years and years ago, as a 13-0 heavyweight,” Cormier said during a recent TUF 27 Media Day. “They could have justified giving me a title fight then because I won two fights in the UFC and was the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion whenever I moved over. The fight; it’s justified, I believe.”
Even though Cormier relishes the opportunity to try and capture the UFC heavyweight title before he calls it a career; like he did before, he plans a quick exit from heavyweight, as Velasquez is looking to return and get the heavyweight belt back. Despite his recent retirement talk – he plans on retiring by the time he’s 40 in March of 2019 – Cormier won’t retire following the Miocic bout, win or lose.
“No. I’m going to go back down after this fight. It’s gonna suck. I mean, every time sucks. It’s my weight class. I owe it to the guys in the division to go back down to fight them,” Cormier continued.
“So, if Alexander Gustafsson wants to fight like he’s saying, I’ll be back down in time to fight him.”
Daniel Cormier Has a Condition to Fight Alexander Gustafsson Again
Though Cormier believes he’ll be fighting long enough to give Gustafsson another crack at the belt, he thinks the Swede needs to get back in the cage at least once before it happens.
“(Gustafsson) should fight again because, the fact that he barely ever fights… I think I’ve fought five times since we fought (in October of 2015). He’s fought like twice,” said Cormier. “He needs to fight again before we fight after I fight Stipe. It’s February. He hasn’t fought since last May. If I fight in July, I probably won’t be ready to fight again until the end of the year. Alexander should not have been sitting for a year-and-a-half and just waiting on a title shot. That doesn’t make any sense.”
There is certainly a lot of interest in a Cormier vs. Gustafsson rematch. When the two fought in 2015, Cormier won the bout, but just barely. They fought a back-and-forth battle with Cormier earning the nod from two of the judges, while the third judge favored Gustafsson.
Despite their respective levels of activity, both have remained at the top of the rankings during that span. Cormier currently sits at No. 1 in the MMAWeekly.com Men’s Light Heavyweight MMA Top 10 Rankings, while Gustafsson has etched his place in the second slot.
Cormier isn’t denying that Gustafsson deserves a shot, but feels it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to sit out in the neighborhood of 18 months and return to a title shot.
“He should fight again before he gets a title shot… or I will say I’m not gonna fight him because he doesn’t deserve it. I can fight someone else, somebody that’s been fighting that may not be as known as Alex, but has fought to get there,” Cormier said.
“We fought in 2015, I think; he’s fought twice. He’s just kind of been sitting and waiting for a title shot. That’s not the way it should be.”
Cormier will surely be fighting before then. He is currently coaching opposite Miocic on the twenty-seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter. He will then have a few months to prepare before squaring off with Miocic in the UFC 226 main event on July 7 in Las Vegas.
Daniel Cormier TUF 27 Media Day Full Scrum
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