Daniel Cormier Can’t Let It Go: Should He Have To?

Image for Daniel Cormier Can’t Let It Go: Should He Have To?

Daniel Cormier is one of the most decorated and respected UFC fighters of all time. The second fighter ever to simultaneously hold a world championship in two divisions has only ever been bested by two men, Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic, both of which are considered the very best of all time in their respective divisions. While Cormier’s losses to Miocic are uncontroversial, suffering a TKO loss as a result of brutal body hooks and a unanimous decision in the trilogy fight, it is his fights with Jones that are steeped in controversy. In particular, their second bout saw Jones deliver a clinical, devastating head kick quickly followed by vicious ground strikes to finish the Olympian.

Following the conclusion of this fight, which saw Jones return to the top of the light heavyweight heap, he would be stripped of the belt and suspended for his second violation of the USADA drug testing programme, testing positive for an anabolic steroid metabolite. It’s all very complicated and highly contentious stuff, but the damage it did to Jones’ legacy is not up for debate.

On The Pivot Podcast, Cormier spoke at length on the aftermath of these events, but the line that particularly sticks out sees Cormier admitting that the demons never left, saying of Jones “You did some stuff to my career that never let me settle, because now I don’t know… I can’t let it go. He’s a cheater.”

It has been five years since the fight that saw Cormier finished by Jones and seven since their first outing where Cormier was outlasted and outworked. The pinnacle of his career came well after both fights, when he made the move back to heavyweight and knocked out Stipe Miocic with a nasty short hook, bringing the most acclaimed heavyweight championship reign to a thunderous conclusion.  But Cormier said it best, he cannot let it go.

But why should he have to? Why did we?

Jon Jones – Potential realised?

Jon Jones wasn’t always a pariah in the MMA community, but despite his insistence on a squeaky clean image in the early stages of his career, rumours have swirled for years that his moral fibre was less than robust. Rampage Jackson, who faced Jones in a losing effort in 2011, has never shied away from criticising the former light heavyweight champion, calling Jones the ‘dirtiest fighter in MMA’ on numerous occasions. Rashad Evans, who took a loss against Jones in 2012, also cast doubt on Jones’ character in a scathing series of interviews, which held a fair bit more weight considering that Evans had been a long-time training partner of ‘Bones’ and had shared a head coach with him for many years.

His aforementioned rivalry with Cormier did absolutely nothing to fan the flames of the growing consensus that Jones was, at best, a bit of a tool. Iconic moments like ‘Hey pussy, are you still there?’ and an episode of UFC Counterpoints where Cormier would deliver an almost prophetic speech about Jones’ nature, how he would never change and his transgressions were not mistakes, but simply symptomatic of a deeper problem with Jones’ character, were starting to paint a vivid picture.

Add another handful of run-ins with the police, a collection of high-profile fights and victories, and several violations of the USADA banned substances program, and Jones’ legacy has been left in a strange, asterisk-ridden void.

He is the greatest of all time, if you believe that his multiple drug infractions were both accidental and not bestowing any athletic advantage. Oh, and don’t lump too much praise on him, because he’s probably a pretty bad person. Does that matter in relation to his sports legacy? Objectively no, but try telling them to the hoard of people in Jones’ Twitter replies and Instagram comments, who would easily be written off as trolls if they weren’t citing police reports by wrote, or simply stating entirely objective matters of public record.

Today, Jon Jones is in a weird spot. He hasn’t fought in over two years, and his last performance was an underwhelming and highly contentious decision victory over Dominick Reyes. For most fans, it was Jon’s worst performance to date and should have been the first legitimate loss of his professional career. But the judges’ decision marked his thirteenth title fight victory, which broke the record for the most title fight wins in UFC history. Following the fight, Jones soon vacated the belt, citing an intention to move to the heavyweight division.
Jones’ heavyweight debut has yet to materialise. We have never had a concrete idea of who Jones might fight next, beyond Twitter spats with some of the most relevant players in the division. In short, the major roadblock appears to be money. Jones wants more, the UFC don’t want to give him more. Regardless of whatever the facts of the situation are, Jon Jones is perceived by a huge portion of the general public as a drug cheat and a domestic abuser. His championship prowess pales in comparison to the frankly awful legacy Jon’s plainly hedonistic and destructive lifestyle is creating, poisoning what could’ve been (and this is no exaggeration) the greatest career in all of combat sports history.

This begs a seemingly obvious question: Why should Daniel Cormier have to contend with forgiving or forgetting? If this were two, maybe three infractions from an opponent with an otherwise squeaky clean record, then perhaps it would be easier to forgive. But Jones’s pattern of self-destructive and counter-productive behaviour is both self-admitted and a matter of public record. Already, the comments and tweets laughing at DC for refusing to move on and chastising him for making excuses for being bested by his athletic superior are flowing. The facts remain, however, that Jon Jones was flagged for violations, and ever since those violations have become the main talking point of his career, he has coincidentally begun looking worse and worse. Before the aforementioned bout with Reyes, Jones had difficulty securing a decision victory over Thiago Santos, a career middleweight who tore every major ligament in his knee in the first round. It would take Jon a further twenty minutes to defeat the Brazillian, a literal one-legged fighter for the majority of the fight.

Cormier’s legacy is now inextricably tied to Jones’, with the inarguable greatness of Jones overshadowing Cormier’s incredible achievements in the eyes of many fans. Cormier has achieved much that Jones hasn’t; successful integration into a higher weight class, championships at multiple weights simultaneously, and bouncing back from crushing losses on several occasions. Jones has never lost a professional fight, but the closest he ever came was two years ago and we’ve seen nothing from him since. Cormier is naturally heavier than Jones, but it took Cormier five months to go from defending the light heavyweight belt, to knocking out the heavyweight champion in less than five minutes.

There has always been an intangible to greatness. Jon Jones has never been the greatest boxer, kickboxer, wrestler, so on and so on. Name any discipline that MMA encompasses, and Jon has never been the epitome of excellence in any one of them. So then, how does a man like that score takedowns on Cormier, an Olympic-level wrestler widely regarded as one of the greatest wrestlers in MMA history? How does he out-tough Shogun Rua, a man who tore through the ranks of PRIDE FC in a flurry of knees, elbows and soccer kicks? How does he stand toe to toe with an elite boxer like Alexander Gustaffson and, despite very little training and a gameplan seemingly invented on the fly, beat him to a bloody and bruised decision victory?

There’s always a sensation that arrives when you watch Jones compete, a sense that you’re watching something really quite special happen. Maybe the answer is steroids. Maybe it isn’t. But the fact that Cormier will never know whether he was bested by his athletic superior, or the results of an exogenous cocktail of substances he should never have to prepare for, is entirely unfair. It is a stain on Jones, not on Cormier, that he cannot let this go, and while I’m not advocating that we never let Jones move on from this infraction guilty or not, to chastise Cormier is entirely the wrong approach.

Cormier’s emotions and inability to let go are not only the markers of a fiercely competitive individual, but should serve not as a stain on his character, but as a reminder of why the rules are so important. Jon Jones has bent the rules, intentionally or otherwise. And it has left a considerable blemish on an otherwise otherworldly career.

Share this article

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *