Daniel Cormier, one of the greatest fighters in MMA history, is almost ready to retire. But the 41-year-old wrestling specialist has one item left on his to-do list: reclaim the UFC heavyweight title from Stipe Miocic.
He's fought Miocic twice before, splitting the series, and is reluctant to hang up his gloves until their score is settled.
"You get to 1-1 and you start thinking, 'We've got to end this thing,'" Cormier told Bleacher Report of his rivalry with Miocic. "It doesn't stop like this.
"I think it honestly is the greatest heavyweight series the UFC's ever had, and it needs to be finalized. It should not end at 1-1."
The pair first met in summer 2018 when Cormier, then the UFC light heavyweight champion, moved up to heavyweight to challenge Miocic for his belt. Cormier defeated Miocic via first-round knockout, becoming one of only a few concurrent two-division champs in UFC history.
After defending the heavyweight title in a short-notice fight with Derrick Lewis in November 2018, Cormier set his sights on a retirement fight with longtime WWE star and former UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar. The plan was to defend his title against Lesnar and then retire before he turned 40 in March 2019.
However, the Lesnar fight never materialized, and Cormier instead agreed to defend his title in a rematch with Miocic. He lost that rematch in August 2019 by fourth-round TKO.
While Miocic is open to a trilogy fight with Cormier, the two are at odds when it comes to the time frame of the bout. Cormier is hoping to fight this summer, but Miocic is in less of a rush. As he recently told MMA Junkie, his priority during the ongoing pandemic is his part-time job as a firefighter.
Cormier respects Miocic's commitment to his duties as a first responder, but he noted his rival also has responsibilities as the UFC heavyweight champion.
"I know that he's a fireman, and I know that he's trying to take care of people as we go through this pandemic, and I don't want to sound insensitive, but he's also the heavyweight champion of the world," Cormier said. "When his eyes were all jacked up [after our second fight], and he was hurt—sure, I get it; don't rush back to the Octagon when you're not healthy. But now that he is and he's ready to go, he should start to think about defending his championship."
With his retirement plans up in the air, Cormier acknowledged he sometimes questions his decision not to walk away from the sport in March 2019—before he lost his rematch with Miocic—as he originally planned.
"I wanted to retire back then, and looking back, [not doing] that might have been a mistake," he said. "I could have retired, but I always said from the beginning I wanted one last fight. I don't know what the desire was for that fight when I didn't need it, but I wanted one more fight. I thought I was fighting Brock Lesnar, and I could have just walked away when Brock Lesnar couldn't fight, but I wanted to fight, and I fought Stipe, and he won."
As Cormier waits for the pandemic to subside and his trilogy with Miocic to materialize, he's been staying busy, spending time with his wife and kids, training when he can and working as a commentator for the recent UFC 249 card. He also recently inked a new partnership with Taki, a platform that allows fans to purchase custom-made videos from celebrities, and he is donating 100 percent of the proceeds of this partnership to Wrestling Prep, a training and competitive organization for wrestlers.
When his fight with Miocic finally becomes official, he'll dedicate himself to the task of reclaiming the heavyweight title.
In this third fight with his rival, Cormier said he intends to focus more on his wrestling—his bread and butter—and less on landing a knockout punch.
"[I want to] use the wrestling a little bit more and not chase the knockout," he said of his game plan for the fight. "I was chasing the knockout in the second fight. He was there to be hit, and after you get a knockout like I had the first time, it's almost addicting to want to do it again. I started chasing that knockout, and that's what happened. I got in trouble because of it.
"I just want to win the fight," he added. "We've got 25 minutes, and I want to show the things that I've shown on countless occasions: that I can outhustle anybody, I can get through anything, I can make adjustments and show my fight IQ. In the last fight, I didn't fight like myself. I didn't look like myself. I didn't compete the way that I'm used to competing."
If Cormier is able to follow his game plan to a rivalry-ending win over Miocic, UFC President Dana White will wrap the heavyweight belt around his waist and UFC commentator Joe Rogan will join him in the Octagon for one final post-fight interview. Then, the time will finally come for Cormier to make his retirement official.
It's a moment the former champ can picture.
"I think when I win that belt again and Joe and I do that interview, it's going to feel great," he said. "I'm not thinking about retirement; I'm thinking about winning that championship back. It will be like coming full circle. I'll feel like everything is as it's supposed to be."
No matter the outcome of his final fight with Miocic, Cormier's legacy as one of the greatest fighters ever is already secure. Yet he hopes fans will remember him for his efforts, too, not just his accomplishments.
"When people look back on me, I just want them to remember that I tried hard every single time," he said. "I gave 110 percent. I fought my tail off. I never cut corners. I just fought and trained and gave every bit of myself every time I stepped into the Octagon. If I walk away and [fans are] saying that, I did my job."