At last weekend’s UFC 220 post-fight press conference, UFC light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier didn’t seem particularly interested in a mooted super-fight with the promotion’s heavyweight kingpin Stipe Miocic.
Earlier that evening, Cormier had impressively finished the dangerous Volkan Oezdemir with strikes from the crucifix position in the second round before Miocic put on an MMA masterclass to diffuse and dominate the terrifyingly explosive Francis Ngannou over five rounds in the main event. The performances got Dana White thinking super-fight and the UFC president suggested in a post-fight interview with Fox Sports 1 that he was going to work on getting Miocic vs. Cormier done.
Cormier, however, told the media that his friendship with American Kickboxing Academy teammate and former two-time heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez would make it hard for him to accept a crack at Miocic’s strap.
“People have talked about that for a really long time. I mean, I did fight 13 fights at heavyweight and I hate cutting weight – as you guys all know,” said Cormier, who went unbeaten during his run at heavyweight between 2009 and 2013. “But I haven’t really thought about it.”
“It’s especially hard for me now, because Cain [Velasquez] is in the gym more. Cain is in the gym now getting prepared to do what he does best. I draw so much from him. Cain had a baby about a month ago and he’s here with me right now. I didn’t bother to ask him if he was coming to the fight because I didn’t know if it was possible because of the new baby. But, Wednesday afternoon, Cain comes to my room with his bags and he’s there for my weight-cut. Dude’s never [been in a sauna] in his life, he was shrivelling up like a grape. He looked like one of the California raisins by the time we were done with that sauna. But he’s there and I draw inspiration from him. And if he’s getting prepared to get that belt back, then I have nothing for that division. That will never change.”
Cormier had previously claimed that the size disadvantage he would encounter against the elite fighters in the heavyweight division was a discouraging factor, but his friendship with Velasquez seemed to be the real reason for his reluctance to jump back up to his former weight class. After all, avoiding direct competition with Velasquez was one of the main reasons he made the drop to light-heavyweight in the first place.
In response to Cormier’s hesitation, White suggested that ‘DC’ could vacate the title if he beat Miocic.
When it was officially announced on Friday night that Cormier will challenge Miocic at UFC 226 in July, many probably assumed that the light-heavyweight champ had been swayed somewhat by White’s suggestion and is planning to dump the title, or perhaps even retire, if he topples Stipe.
Velasquez’s subsequent reaction to the news, however, has people wondering if Cormier might actually stick around at heavyweight and defend against his good friend after all.
“Like always, I’m gonna be in the gym every day to help my brother [Daniel Cormier] become the next heavyweight champ at #UFC226,” Velasquez wrote on Twitter. “Once he wins, things could get interesting. #AndNew #WeAreAKA #GonnaGetMyBeltBack.”
Like always, I'm gonna be in the gym everyday to help my brother @dc_mma become the next heavyweight champ at #UFC226. Once he wins, things could get interesting. #AndNew #WeAreAKA #GonnaGetMyBeltBack
— Cain Velasquez (@cainmma) January 27, 2018
Does that mean what I think it means…potential for Cain vs DC? https://t.co/reKTY2MhFX
— Peter Carroll (@PetesyCarroll) January 27, 2018
— Luke Thomas (@lthomasnews) January 27, 2018
— michael cartwright (@beerwolf83) January 27, 2018
If DC's last fight is gonna be Cain Velasquez it will BE LIT AF. DC already said it. He won't be around in 2019. With TUF and Stipe fight most of the year will be gone.
— Natraj (@NatrajManUnited) January 27, 2018
Velasquez’s career has been blighted by injury in recent years and he has only fought once since dropping the heavyweight title to Fabricio Werdum in June of 2015, finishing Travis Browne in the first round at UFC 200 on July 9th, 2016. He was scheduled to face Werdum in a rematch at UFC 207 several months after the Browne fight but had to withdraw through injury. He subsequently underwent back surgery in January of 2017.
As ‘DC’ noted at the UFC 220 post-fight presser, however, Velasquez has been back at the gym of late and is working his way toward a comeback. According to a recent report from ESPN’s Brett Okamoto though, the 35-year-old is still being “cautious” in training and there is “no hard timeframe” for his return at this point.
Regarding Cain Velasquez, I was told he continues to make progress on a return. Tested some things during DC’s camp, being cautious but will continue to increase intensity. No hard timeframe, just keep ramping things up consistenky.
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) January 21, 2018