With UFC 251 in the books and the UFC’s excursion to Fight Island now nearly complete, all eye are starting to drift ahead towards the next major card on the horizon, UFC 252. While there are other fight cards between now and then, UFC 252 figures to be one of the marquee events of the summer, headlined by a good, old-fashioned heavyweight trilogy fight between champion Stipe Miocic and former champion Daniel Cormier.
In their first bout, Cormier, the then-light heavyweight champion, moved up and stunned Miocic, knocking him out in the first round to become only the second fighter in UFC history to hold belts in two divisions simultaneously. A year later in the rematch, Miocic got one back, overcoming a poor start to stop Cormier in the fourth and reclaim his title. Now, in less than a month, the two men will square off, once and for all, and heading into the bout, Cormier says the fight is basically the only thing he is thinking about.
“I think it’s more pronounced because I want to win so badly and I feel like I just fumbled so bad,” Cormier said on ESPN. “I fumbled really bad last time. I fumbled in a lot of ways. I was so distracted with everything going on in my life and I was so focused on coaching and all these other things that I kind of just fumbled. I fumbled bad and I wasn’t prepared as I needed to and I got tired. Like, I got tired. I can admit it. I got tired. He hit me with those shots in the end, he hurt me to the body and he hurt me to the head and I didn’t react because my body couldn’t react because I was so tired, and I will not allow that to happen again. If he ever finds a way to hurt me, I need to fight back like I did in every other instance in my entire life. I didn’t do that last time and it sits with me every single day.
“That’s why everybody is like, ‘Man, you’ve always got people around you.’ Because it sucks to be around my thoughts. When I’m just stuck with my thoughts a lot of time, I start thinking about the things that I didn’t do that got me beat last time.”
The thing Miocic did to beat Cormier last time was body shots. Cormier dominated the first round and won the second round against Miocic, but in the third the then-former heavyweight champion showed what champions are made off, adjusting to Cormier and targeting the body with powerful hooks, that ultimately led to the finish in the fourth. That adjustment worked well against Cormier, who says that he got too comfortable in the cage against Miocic after having such early success.
“I think that’s what happened to me,” Cormier said. “I was very comfortable because I felt like I was better—and I still do believe I’m better—but that was even almost like reaffirmed after the first round because I landed almost everything I threw. Even after the fight, I think I landed like 70 percent of my strikes. I barely ever missed so it was just a bad combination that got me beat. So I think about it constantly. It’s bad.”
It’s an interesting look into the mind of Cormier as he prepares, not only for a heavyweight title shot, but for the final bout of his career. After UFC 252—win, lose, or draw—Cormier will walk away from the sport. And for him, that’s the most important part of this trilogy: not reclaiming the title, but performing to the best of his abilities in his final fight ever.
“I just want to do what I’m supposed to do,” Cormier said. “If that means win, that means win. But I want to compete to my ability. That wasn’t the best of my ability. I know that because of who he is, there’s a chance he could beat me. You’ve got to be stupid to think that a guy who has done all he has done can’t win a fight. But if he does, I want him to beat the best version of me.
“If he wins that fight, I want him to do it by beating the best version of Daniel Cormier, not a guy who isn’t even a year out of back surgery and not in the best physical condition, isn’t able to train himself to be who he is. That’s all I want. I want to be able to go out there and compete to my potential, and with that said, I feel my potential is me winning the fight.”
UFC 252 takes place on August 15 at UFC APEX in Las Vegas.