Daniel Cormier, the longtime training partner to UFC Heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, has made it clear that he intends to drop to light-heavyweight with a victory over Roy “Big Country” Nelson at UFC 166. Not only does he plan to make the cut, he intends to fight light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones immediately for the title.
Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida has a much-warranted complaint, and had the following to say about the matter at a media call on Thursday:
“I believe that there’s a ranking and it should be followed. There are a lot of guys in line right now in the weight class to fight for a title. I’ve been waiting in line. There’s Glover Teixeira, there’s Phil Davis, so there’s a lot of guys in there in the mix.”
“If he’s going to move down to 205, he’s going to need to put a couple of fights in, or at least have a significant win in a big fight. I don’t think it’s right for him to just come in and cut the line. I think he’s going to have to show that he deserves that title shot.”
The Dragon is justifiably upset, and is only stating the facts. Not only are there legitimate contenders already in line at 205, but Cormier has yet to even face elite-level competition in the UFC. Frank Mir and “Big Country” Nelson are certainly tough opponents with a lot of experience, but they are definitely not the cream of the crop. A win over Nelson should not propel Cormier into title contention in either division.
To be fair, Cormier is a great wrestler with solid striking, and he has looked phenomenal at heavyweight. He is undefeated and has a skill set that could make him a viable threat to Jones. Unfortunately for him, it remains to be seen if the slightly-pudgy collegiate wrestler can even make the 205 limit, let alone compete with the very best light-heavyweights following such a dramatic weight cut.
A younger Cormier was not able to make the weight cut down to 211.5 pounds for the Olympic Games in 2008 without risk of kidney failure. Are we really expected to believe that he is slimmer and more fit now than when he was primed to represent the U.S. in freestyle wrestling at the Olympics? He would likely have to lose muscle mass to make a desperate, debilitating cut to 205.
Even still, the UFC would be insane to take the risk that Cormier could miss weight for a title fight, potentially losing millions in promotional spending.
Cormier’s refusal to fight his friend and teammate Velasquez has put the man in a tough spot – we get that. The talented wrestler surely dreams to be a UFC champion, but calling out the champion in a lower division without a top win isn’t the way to get your foot in the door.
He needs to challenge a top light-heavyweight contender and get a significant win over a high-caliber opponent and earn his rite of passage. And for his own sake, don’t get Machida upset. He wants to get matched up against someone he can actually beat.