Abu Dhabi, UAE — Daniel Cormier, now retired as a fighter, is in an interesting situation at this weekend’s UFC 254.
On Saturday, he’ll be calling a teammate’s fight. The American Kickboxing Academy heavyweight (or former heavyweight now) has broadcast duties for the PPV card, which is headlined by AKA’s own Khabib Nurmagomedov.
“I’ve always said no to calling my teammates’ fights. But as I move into the second phase of my life, it’s my job,” Cormier observed on Thursday, just two days out from the big fight.
For Cormier, the decision required some reflection. “It wasn’t a decision made on a whim. It was a lot of people asking ‘can Daniel do this job?’ For me, I’ve called Islam Makhachev fights, I’ve called Deron Winn fights, and I feel like I stayed down the middle as best as I could,” he stated. “And so I figured I could do it.” Both fighters are also members of the AKA family.
“It’s tough, right, because Khabib’s been there eight years now at AKA, and we’ve seen him rise from the very beginning,” admitted DC. “But I’ve got a job to do, and that’s what I’m going to do on Saturday.”
Had the match-up been someone other than Justin Gaethje, however, there’s a chance Cormier would have sat this one out. “Certain guys, if he fought, I couldn’t do the job. I’m being honest,” he said. Gaethje is someone that Cormier respects “tremendously,” allowing him to get in the broadcast booth.
However, other match-ups are a different story. Including the obvious one. “To call Khabib and Conor [McGregor], with all the bad blood, I couldn’t have done that. Because you’re so solely in your guy’s corner. But Justin’s a good guy.”
Nurmagomedov and McGregor met at UFC 229 in 2018. Khabib won the fight, but chose to scale the octagon wall in an attempt to attack McGregor’s corner, sparking a near riot at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
So on the off chance that the pair do fight again, it seems you can count Daniel Cormier out.
After a one year suspension (reduced slightly) for his antics, Nurmagomedov returned last September, defeating Dustin Poirier. But it’s Justin Gaethje that many, including Cormier, feel has the best chance of defeating “The Eagle.”
“I believe [Gaethje’s] the toughest fight for Khabib,’ opined Cormier. “For a long time, we thought that Tony Ferguson was the guy that would give him the most trouble, if there is trouble to be had. But then obviously Justin beat Tony. The guy that showed up in May, I was like ‘wow!'”
“I was there, I watched the most dangerous guy for Khabib. With his wrestling ability, his striking ability, he’s dangerous,” Cormier continued. “But there’s something that stands out to me even more: it’s the confidence. This dude believes that he’s going to win. There’s no doubt in his mind. I think Justin’s mentality is what gives him a big chance.”
UFC 254 takes place on “Fight Island” (Yas Island) in Abu Dhabi at the Flash Forum on Saturday, October 24. The main card airs live on PPV following televised and online prelims.