Daniel Cormier decided to walk before he was pushed.
Last night saw DC give up the light heavyweight championship before he was due to be stripped of it.
The winner of tonight’s UFC 232 main event between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson will crown a new 205lb. champion, despite Cormier having defended the belt in January of this year, something which irked the legend in the statement he released.
“I am not going to be stripped of the belt that I’ve defended with my all for three and a half years,” he said via ESPN. “I’ve defended this title this year. I fought three times in 2018. No champion has been more active than me. My story and my legacy will not include me being stripped of a title.”
The move drew reaction from both UFC president Dana White and Jones, who have been scrutinised this week for much different reasons.
Cormier’s long-standing hatred for Jones was something we cited as a possible factor in his decision, and White is certainly of that view given his comments to MMAJunkie.
“He’s being a little dramatic right now,” White stated. “Because of his hatred for Jon Jones. He would’ve never been stripped, he was vacating the title. It would never go down in history that he was stripped.”
Perhaps it’s a case of dealing in semantics as White is suggesting, but the principle of vacating versus being stripped proved too important for Cormier to not adhere to.
Jones viewed it as Cormier rightfully ceding the belt to him, as he told Brett Okamoto of ESPN.
“It’s a smart thing to do.”
“You never were the champ, I think he knows that. He never beat me – he actually lost to me twice. In the fans’ eyes, I think they know that’s been Jon Jones’ belt since 2011. If it wasn’t, why would you relinquish it, why would you not fight?
“He’s giving it up because he knows the rightful owner of it is here. It’s like an NFL player retiring before he’s cut.”
DC is still in possession of the heavyweight belt, and has been linked with a blockbuster defence against ex-champion Brock Lesnar.