Former UFC heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier thought he was getting close to a summer date for his retirement bout against current champ Stipe Miocic, but the coronavirus pandemic has put everything on hold. Now Cormier can envision two possibilities.
“I can either not get that moment or I can be a part of another card like UFC 200 [which was scheduled to feature several championship bouts],” Cormier said Monday on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show. “Because I believe the longer this thing goes, the more of a chance the UFC becomes just massive pay-per-views through the end of the year.”
The UFC has postponed three cards, starting with the one this past Saturday. The next scheduled card is UFC 249 on April 18, headlined by Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson. UFC president Dana White has dared skeptics to doubt him when he says that fight will happen on time, although Cormier is skeptical and believes main events might be stacked together later in the year.
“Because if you’re the UFC, don’t you have to stack the cards to make all the money that you’re going to miss going forward?” Cormier said. “Because people will watch. And I could end up taking the Brinks truck to my house at the end of this thing.”
Cormier said earlier this year that if Miocic’s recovery from an eye injury took too long, he might not wait for the trilogy bout and just retire. But he sounded optimistic on Monday that the fight will take place.
“It just depends on how long this thing goes,” he said. “We had gotten pretty close to a date in the summer, ready to go.
“Stipe was getting healthy. I know they were having conversations with him. I was having conversations with the company. I felt we were getting fairly close. And I believe that Stipe wants to do this third fight, because he’s a competitor. Who wants to be 1-1?”
Cormier then seemed to try to encourage Miocic to take the fight by referencing the body work in the fourth round that helped Miocic beat him on Aug. 17, 2019.
“Why not try to win the trilogy, especially when you exploited such a big spot in my defenses in the last fight?” Cormier asked. “You need to do that earlier next time.”
Cormier and Nurmagomedov both work out of American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, during normal times, but the gym has been closed because of the pandemic, except for Nurmagomedov’s personal training. But a report Sunday out of Russia said the lightweight champ has returned to Russia — he’s from Dagestan — to continue his training since California now has shelter-in-place restrictions.
“[AKA coach] Javier Mendez, Khabib and I had a conversation a couple weeks ago, when this thing started going crazy, and we started talking about making sure Khabib had the gym available to him solely,” Cormier said. “But Khabib and I were talking a couple of times personally, and I was like ‘What about your family and everything?’ He was like, ‘Yeah.’ But that’s the last we spoke.
“I don’t know [if Nurmagomedov has returned to Russia], I haven’t been to the gym because the gym has been for Khabib. But if he went back I think it was the right decision. He needs to be with his family. He’s got children, he’s got a wife, he’s got a very young kid that he needs to be around.”
“Why not try to win the trilogy, especially when you exploited such a big spot in my defenses in the last fight?”
Cormier also believes that if the April 18 card does get postponed, he can foresee the UFC shifting plans to a rematch between Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor.
“No fight makes more money than Khabib vs. Conor,” Cormier said. “And no Tony-Khabib fight, no matter who else is on the card, will make as much money as Khabib-Conor.
“I believe that is a possibility. They may end up doing that, even if the reality is for us, the diehards, I want Khabib vs. Tony. Conor can fight someone else and still make money. Conor’s going to make money, but I think he should fight one more fight before he gets back in there with Khabib. What has he shown in 45 seconds with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone that he proved he can go out there and change what happened in the first fight with Khabib?”
Nurmagomedov submitted McGregor in the fourth round of their Oct. 6, 2018, bout. White said McGregor will get the winner, but Nurmagomedov wants McGregor to earn the title shot with more wins.