LAS VEGAS — A week ago, Daniel Cormier weighed 225 pounds. Friday, he weighs 223 pounds. By next Friday, he'll be 219 pounds. In just more than a month, he'll weigh 215 pounds, where he'll begin his actual weight cut. And when he steps in the cage to face Rashad Evans at UFC 170, Cormier hopes to weigh 223 pounds or more.
Of course, he'll need to weigh 205 pounds in there at a very specific point—on Feb. 21, around 4:25 p.m. local time—and that's the thing that has everyone concerned for Cormier's well-being. Right now, the former Olympian is fine. He's comfortable. He's visibly smaller, leading fellow Fox Sports analyst Kenny Florian to make jokes about Cormier wearing skinny jeans. He is not wearing skinny jeans on this day in Las Vegas. But he looks well on his way to light heavyweight, and has arrived at his current weight solely through a changed diet. The hard part will come during fight week, when he's cutting from 215 to 205.
Specifically, the hard part will arrive once Cormier nears 211 pounds. That's the number that got Cormier in trouble the last time he was this small, in 2008 when his kidneys failed during an attempt to cut for the Olympic Games, and it's a number Cormier acknowledges will play mental games with him.
"I think once I get to 213 pounds, that's when I'm going to be like, 'Oh, here we go. I'm doing this again,'" Cormier says. "Mentally, I'm going to have to get past that 211 mark."
Friends urged Cormier to undertake a "test cut" to see how his body would respond to shedding weight for the first time since that dark Olympic day, but Cormier says that was a silly idea, one that was never going to happen.
"What's the point? If I'm 212 pounds and I'm in the sauna when I don't have to be? I'm just going to get out and start drinking water," he says. "What's the motivation to keep me in there when I don't have to be there?"
Cormier stepped in the cage for his last fight—an October win over Roy Nelson—at 224 pounds. That weight is a comfort to Cormier, who notes that he was only able to hit 224 pounds during his later wrestling years after going a day or more without water. And it's not as though Cormier is a stranger to weighing far less than he currently does. He arrived at Oklahoma State as a 197-pound wrestler, but was forced to drop to 184 by his coaches. That was hard as hell, but he did it, and that gives him confidence that 205 pounds won't be all that difficult.
Cormier concedes that Evans is a tall order for his light heavyweight debut. He is a student of the fight game, but he is also close friends with the former light heavyweight champion. Right now, though, Cormier is not answering repeated texts from Evans. He needs a little space, he says, to work himself into the kind of mind-set that will allow him to go into the Octagon with the intention of literally and figuratively beating a friend.
This is something he learned from Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal. They were friends during their wrestling days and remain friends to this day. But one day, Cormier defeated Lawal in the finals of a United States national tournament. Cormier immediately left the arena because he knew Lawal would not get money that he probably needed, and he wouldn't get it because Cormier had defeated him.
For six weeks after that day, Lawal refused to talk to Cormier. He wouldn't answer the phone. No text messages. And six weeks after Cormier defeated Lawal, they wrestled each other one more time. Cormier defeated Lawal one more time. But unlike the last time, Cormier didn't feel bad for doing his job.
"Mo taught me that by him taking space from me. He was my best friend, and I could not understand why he wouldn't speak to me. But he needed to get into the mind-set he needed in order to win this match," Cormier says. "And we had a much better match against each other. Afterward, I didn't feel like I'd hurt my friend so badly because we had a little distance. And then we went right back into being friends again."
And so Cormier will continue ignoring Evans, at least for now. He'll continue eating the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones. He'll keep using the same training methods that have led him to never lose a round during his undefeated mixed martial arts career. And he'll continue a long walk that began with a failed weight cut in the Olympics and could end with a successful weight cut and a light heavyweight championship belt strapped around his waist.