Daniel Cormier admitted to MMA Junkie’s Mike Bohn that getting knocked out by Stipe Miocic in their rematch last year changed the way he thought and felt about his rivalry with the UFC‘s current heavyweight champion.
“I’ve got a bigger level of respect for him and his abilities today as opposed to when I first took the fight or going into the second fight,” Cormier said. “You learn a lot about a person whenever they become your sole focus for so long.”
Now, Cormier heads into his third fight against Miocic at UFC 252 on August 15 at UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, after having spent the last three years of his storied career focused almost completely on just one fighter.
The 41-year-old American said he never saw that coming.
“I never thought it would come to this: three straight summers I’ve spent preparing for him,” Cormier said.
You can watch the full interview here.
Cormier stopped Miocic in the first round at UFC 226 in July 2018. Miocic returned the favor in the fourth round at UFC 241 in August 2019.
The third fight happens in less than two weeks.
Cormier Hopes Heavyweight Rivarly Defines Career
Cormier said he hopes his rivalry with Micoic ends up being the one that ultimately defines his career.
Cormier also competed against Jon Jones in one of the biggest and best rivalries in company history, though the former UFC “champ champ” would like to be remembered for a rivalry won rather than the one he most definitely lost.
Jones dominated Cormier in both fights of that historical rivalry though the second win was overturned to a no-contest due to a failed drug test.
Regardless, Jones won both fights so handily that even Cormier had seen enough.
“It will be difficult for me to ever be completely free of that rivalry with Jones because it was so big,” Cormier admitted. “We sold so many pay-per-views, and the rivalry was so nasty. We were so nasty with each other, and the general public paid attention.”
Cormier Compares Miocic to Jones
Regardless, Cormier said he hopes beating Miocic two out of three times will be the focus of his career once he retires.
“But competitively this is the one that I love because I’m fighting a guy that has done and stood for the right things and has competed in the right way,” Cormier said. “Jones is a fantastic competitor, and I feel like still he brought the best out of me in terms of my preparation. But I believe Stipe Miocic has done the same thing now.”
So while Cormier is one of only four UFC double champions in history, the former light heavyweight and heavyweight kingpin said ending his career as the two-time heavyweight champ is the thing that would stand out most.
“I think becoming the two-time UFC heavyweight champion would be the thing that defines my career,” Cormier said.
Cormier said he respects Miocic’s game more than ever now, but that he still feels as if he will claim a victory in the third fight.
“I feel very familiar with Stipe and the things he wants to do,” Cormier said. “We had three fights, and I intend on winning the third fight and the trilogy.”
Cormier’s Final Fight?
Cormier also confirmed that his third fight against Miocic would likely be his last.
“I’ve won a lot,” Cormier said. “I’ve been a lucky guy in the sport, and the ability and opportunity to go out on top is unheard of.”
The popular UFC star said he hopes to win his final fight at UFC 252 so he can retire on top of the sport the way UFC legend Georges St-Pierre did.
“We see Georges St-Pierre constantly getting asked to come back and just the other day he says, ‘I went out on top. People don’t get that.’ I have that opportunity, and I think if I can complete this task, it’s as big as anything I’ve ever done.'”
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Cormier Enters UFC 252 With Newfound Respect
As for his epic rivalry with Miocic, while things have gotten heated between the two fighters over the last three years, Cormier said he doesn’t plan on carrying any of that heat over with him into his retirement days.
“I think when you train for someone for three years … obviously your relationship changes,” Cormier said. “I think Stipe and I before were pretty cordial maybe friends but now it’s a little bit different.”
Still, Cormier said he’s at least entering his third fight against the champion with a healthy level of respect for the fighter who has won more UFC heavyweight title fights than any other fighter in history.
“I do believe when it’s all said and done I will not harbor any bad emotions toward him,” Cormier said.
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