Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier: Complete Timeline of Their Beef
You might think it all started in August, when that little stage gasped under the anger of the planet's two baddest light heavyweights, one steaming toward the other, with only a goggle-eyed PR rep and the restrictions of civilian clothing holding them back.
But the history of this beef between Jon Jones, the champion, and Daniel Cormier, the undefeated challenger, runs much deeper. It's personal, it's physical, it's emotional.
MMA fans, casual and otherwise, are on a razor's edge as they wait for these two to mix it up this Saturday at UFC 182, for real and in the cage and with nothing much in place this time to stop the violence.
If you're not stoked for this one, you're not paying much attention. Let me help you with that. Here's a full timeline of the history between these two, chronologically displayed in six easy slides.
A Bad 1st Impression
To witness the origin of this enmity, let us travel back in time, all the way back to 2010. The Snuggie dominated the fashion landscape with a blue fist of iron. Jackass 3-D carried us to the very limits of our imaginations. And Lady Gaga caught us all in a "Bad Romance."
And Brock Lesnar, the once-unbeatable heavyweight champion, lost his belt to a young man named Cain Velasquez at UFC 121. Backstage at that event is where we lay our scene.
It is there that a young Jon Jones, then a phenom of the sport but not yet a champion, met Daniel Cormier, a former Olympic wrestler who had just made his first big statement in major league MMA with a 62-second, tap-to-strikes victory over Jason Riley in the Strikeforce promotion.
Some time later, Jones offered his rendition of the meeting to broadcaster Ariel Helwani (transcription h/t Bloody Elbow):
The whole story behind me and him is just so silly. I met him, and I came up to him with a big smile on my face. He's another black guy in the sport, and I felt the need to say hello to him, and I was just like ‘hey man, I hear you're a great wrestler' and all this stuff, and he's like ‘Yeah, yeah, you don't know who I am?' I'm like ‘No I don't know who you are, but my coaches were telling me that you wrestle on the Olympic level.' And I was like ‘I bet you that I could take you down.'
It was my way of trying to develop a new friendship, and he just took it so seriously, and he was just so offended that I didn't know who he was, and from that moment on he decided that there was a beef between us. I was just trying to reach out to him at that moment, and he just decided that there wouldn't be a friendship between us.
It's cool by me. If this guy has some kind of personal vendetta or chose to have a beef with me it's fine. It just kind of sucks because both of us being African-American guys in the sport I think we should get along and respect each other, but that's not the case.
Though Cormier remembers the same exchange, not surprisingly, his interpretation is a little different. Here's his description from an interview with ESPN:
I didn't expect Jon Jones to know who I was as an Olympian. I don't expect Jon Jones to know any wrestlers. He was the guy that was coming up to be the UFC champion. What I said was, 'How do you break the ice by insulting someone?' That's the only problem I had. It was the first time he and I ever interacted. He walked up to me, a very tall individual. He looked down on me and started to make derogatory comments towards me, talking about how he could take me down easy and stuff...You don't even know who I am, guy!
Honestly? This feels like a misunderstanding that spiraled out of control. Jones, perhaps trying too hard to make a good impression (and this wouldn't be the first time), said something to which Cormier, perhaps reacting with excess sensitivity, took offense. As an alternative theory, perhaps Jones was just being a jerk and is now trying to cover his tracks.
The Fight Is On
Fast-forward three years. Now a champion, Jones' life had settled—stagnated, if you prefer—into a bit of a routine. The ritual went fight, dominate, repeat.
That was until a young man named Alexander Gustafsson stepped in against Jones in September 2013 at a little event called UFC 165. They waged the best fight of the year, with Jones taking unprecedented punishment before ultimately snatching a unanimous (but close) win.
Why is this fight important for the Jones-Cormier timeline? I'll tell you. See, the title fight at UFC 178 originally did not involve Daniel Cormier. It involved Gustafsson.
But when Gustafsson tore his meniscus, Cormier was only too happy to fill in. Just like that, the latent, somewhat ambiguous feud assumed a good deal more rigidity.
Gustafsson indirectly opened the door to the grudge match, thanks to his injury. But more importantly, he opened the door to this epic main event. In hammering and almost upsetting Jones at UFC 165, Gustafsson leveled the playing field just enough so that it could now solidly support a real rivalry. Gustafsson proved that, on the wrong night and against the wrong opponent, the great Jon Jones was beatable.
The Big Row
Though it started in 2010, it hit its turning point just last August.
It was August 4, to be exact, during a media event to hype UFC 178, the event at which the two were originally scheduled to scrap (more on that in a second). Jones and Cormier posed for a faceoff. The event was nothing big at first, just another staredown for another bank of cameras.
But then something went awry.
They're tense, these staredowns, and sometimes that tension boils over. There's a spark, seen or unseen. In the case of Jones and Cormier, the spark was quite visible, as Jones and Cormier touched—you might say butted—heads as they stood nose-to-nose.
Cormier shoved Jones in the throat. Jones reacted with a punch that missed. He then drove forward for a takedown attempt, the momentum of which carried them both off the stage, where they tussled until security pulled them apart.
No one was seriously hurt in the fracas, but it still stirred up even more bad blood (not to mention headlines). The feud was in the mainstream now.
Hot Mics Add More Heat
The verbal sparring continued, and the fire was fueled ever higher.
There was this ESPN exchange in August, which came after the cameras (supposedly) stopped rolling. (Check the the NSFW video if you desire.)
Let us now take in a portion of the brilliant exchange that transpired:
Jones: "Hey p---y, are you still there?"
Cormier: "I'm here, I'm here. You are just the fakest person. I actually admire that you can actually be this fake, and like, when the TV comes on, how you can just change. It's like you're a chameleon. It's awesome."
(A few moments later)
Cormier: "I wish they would let me next door so I could spit in your f-----g face."
Jones: "You know I would absolutely kill you if you ever did something like that, right?"
Cormier: "You could never kill me."
Jones: "Oh, I bet you I could."
Cormier: "Then you should try, Jon. You really should try, Jon."
Jones: "I would literally kill you if you spit in my face."
Cormier: "Yeah, let's try that, Jon."
Jones: "Literally kill you."
Cormier: "Let's try that, Jon."
There's more, both in that particular video and elsewhere. In the wake of the brawl on media day, there was this exchange on Fox Sports 1. There was also Jones' rather antagonistic appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Yeah...these two don't like each other.
Jon Jones Injured, Fight Postponed
On August 12, it was announced that Jones had torn a meniscus during training. The same injury that had forced Gustafsson out of the original contest now forced Jones out of his grudge match with Cormier.
The bout was rescheduled for UFC 182, and at the time, Jan. 3 might as well have been 2025.
The delay caused the war of words to cool, but luckily for fans, it did warm up again. In fact, it may have served as an additional incubation period, allowing the feud to putrefy that much longer.
The Fallout Hits the Wallets
In late September, the Nevada State Athletic Commission unanimously voted to discipline both fighters for their roles in the August brawl.
Jones received a $50,000 fine and 40 hours of community service. Cormier was hit with a $9,000 penalty and ordered to complete 20 hours of community service.
During the commission hearing in which those punishments were decided, Jones testified to a loss that was far more significant than anything Nevada officials could dish out.
As a result of the row, Nike ended its endorsement relationship with Jones. The arrangement was not only a landmark deal for Team Jones but also cost the champ "six figures" of income.
To paraphrase the saying, now this rivalry was messing with their money. With that, the final angle of animosity was covered, and perhaps the biggest feud in UFC history was cemented.
It's been simmering ever since, leaking out in interviews here and there. As fight week ramps up, anyone listening will surely see and hear plenty more.
It all culminates at UFC 182. Provided, of course, that they can make it past the weigh-ins.
Scott Harris covers both the serious and less serious aspects of MMA for Bleacher Report. For more stuff like this, follow Scott on Twitter.