“Great champions always have one good night, and then they tempt fate. I’m not willing to do that.”
In case you weren’t sold on the retirement of Daniel Cormier ahead of UFC 252, perhaps that statement will seal the deal. Speaking at the event’s pre-fight press conference on Thursday, he reiterated that yes, he will hang them up after this weekend.
He also confirmed who his toughest opponent has been over the years: a man he never officially fought. Friend and training partner Cain Velasquez. And despite the legendary gym wars at American Kickboxing Academy over the years, made famous by word of mouth from coaches like Javier Mendez, the tapes will never see the light of day.
“I don’t want you guys seeing me get beat up all the time,” Cormier told Cageside Press during Thursday’s press conference. “Still to this day, Cain Velasquez is the toughest guy I’ve ever fought. Or trained with. He’s just really good. I believe that’s part of the reason I’ve been so prepared to do great things, because I have great partners.”
Just don’t get your hopes up about seeing any of their battles. “You will not see the sparring footage, because I don’t want people to watch me get beat all the time,” continued Cormier. “I got three videos floating around the world of me losing right now, and that’s too much for me to deal with.”
“There have been a lot of camps that have been around a really long time. And Koscheck, Fitch, they all fought for titles,” said Cormier. “But then Cain, myself, Luke, and Khabib [Nurmagomedov] now, we all took the next step. Seeing it so close allows people to realize, the athletes in our gym, that it’s possible.”
It certainly is. Cormier himself won his first UFC title in 2015, at light heavyweight. He’d later become a double-champ by knocking out Stipe Miocic in 2018. Velasquez first won heavyweight gold in 2010, losing it the following year. His second reign would last from 2013 to 2015, and it was to avoid fighting his friend and teammate that sent Cormier to 205lbs originally. Rockhold claimed the middleweight title in 2015 as well.
“We were the kings of the American Kickboxing Academy. We all got to the top of the world. We all wore UFC championships,” D.C. exclaimed. “What gym can say that guys went in there, with no skill outside of maybe wrestling, and became champions?”
Khabib is the only one that had any real MMA experience when he moved into the gym, Cormier pointed out. “And he’s the most dominant champion in the world now. So we’re very proud of our team, and we’re extremely proud of Khabib.”
Nurmagomedov won the UFC’s lightweight title in 2018. Cormier will attempt to reclaim gold this Saturday — and rise off into the sunset.