No matter how long Daniel Cormier competes or how much he improves as a fighter, there are two mixed martial artists he is unlikely to ever face in the cage -- UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and Bellator light heavyweight contender Muhammed Lawal.
It’s unlikely to happen because Cormier will do whatever is necessary to avoid either man. He considers both his brothers, and nothing that will move Cormier to test the American Kickboxing Academy family bond -- not even a title shot.
It’s a very powerful bond, considering Cormier is extremely driven to become a UFC champion in the not-too-distant future. Every second spent in the gym training, each minute of an actual fight, Cormier takes a step closer to achieving his goal. He repeatedly envisions having his hand raised and a UFC title belt placed around his waist.
The fighter ranked No. 3 among heavyweights by ESPN.com is a win, maybe two, from being offered a title shot. But Cormier will not accept such an offer because he can’t bring himself to challenge Velasquez. And as far as Cormier is concerned there isn’t a heavyweight on the current UFC roster capable of dethroning his friend.
With Velasquez seemingly unbeatable by any heavyweight not associated with AKA, according to Cormier, the highly ranked contender is channeling his energies toward a shot at the UFC light heavyweight belt. But getting to 205 pounds is no easy task for Cormier, who currently packs 235 pounds on his 5-foot-11 frame.
He is taking his time and cutting the weight “correctly.” As a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic wrestling team, Cormier attempted to cut weight rapidly by ridding his body of water. The strategy resulted in damage to his kidney; to avoid a repeat of that situation, Cormier is on a closely monitored diet.
And the results thus far are encouraging. His weight is diminishing at a moderate pace. If all continues to go positively, Cormier could compete for the 205-pound title in a little more than a year. But there is no guarantee he will ever reach the light heavyweight limit. The only thing Cormier can do is to try.
In the meantime, he wants to continue plowing through highly ranked heavyweights. And that’s where things get a bit complicated. Cormier continues to knock off heavyweight contenders, while making it clear he will not fight Velasquez for the belt. On the surface, something about this scenario doesn’t pass the smell test, and Cormier knows it. He’s aware of the criticism some are tossing in his direction: Why continue to eliminate heavyweight contenders while preparing for a future at 205 pounds? It comes down to physics and economics.
“It’s going to take some time for me to get to 205 pounds, if that’s the route that I go,” Cormier told ESPN.com. “But in that time is it possible for me to still fight at heavyweight, while working my way down so that I can stay busy and still make money, instead of being out of the cage for an extended period of time?
“I can’t be the champion at heavyweight when Cain has the belt, and I don’t want him to lose. I can’t cut the weight from 235 pounds; I have to diet. So while I’m in the process of dieting I can fight still. That’s really all it is.
“I think I can [make 205] or I wouldn’t have started the dieting process. I’m smaller now than I’ve been [in a long time].”
It’s a difficult road for Cormier on several fronts: He must continue defeating highly rated heavyweights -- as his body gets smaller -- to remain relevant and also earn top dollar, while assuring he gets a light heavyweight title shot in the event the weight does come off. There’s also the matter of hoping Velasquez retains his belt during this weight-loss process.
Though Cormier strongly believes Velasquez won’t suffer defeat at any time in the foreseeable future, he will accept a UFC heavyweight title shot against anyone else if the unimaginable happens. And if Cormier were to claim the heavyweight title, is a showdown with Velasquez possible?
“If I was the [heavyweight] champion and Cain decided to fight me that would be his call,” Cormier said. “I’d have nothing against him. I don’t want to fight him, because of how he treated me walking into his gym as a top heavyweight [prospect]; how he’s treated me as a friend; how he’s completely pushed my career. I don’t want to [fight him].
“But these are all hypotheticals. They [heavyweight contenders] are not going to beat him. I’m serious; they’re not going to beat him. They’re not good enough.”
With this in mind, Cormier continues his journey toward light heavyweight. He’d love to claim the belt from arguably sport’s the best fighter – UFC 205-pound champion Jon Jones. But Jones’ days at light heavyweight appear numbered. That doesn’t, however, deter Cormier.
“I still want to be a UFC champion and I’m not going to fight Cain,” Cormier said. “Jon Jones is the [light heavyweight] champion. That’s the only reason I mentioned Jon Jones.
“Even if we miss each other, with me going down and [Jones] moving up, I still have the opportunity to be the UFC champion. It’s my ultimate goal. It doesn’t matter -- outside of Mo Lawal and Cain Velasquez, I don’t care who’s standing on the other side of the cage.”