Daniel Cormier has denied accusations that he intentionally poked Stipe Miocic during their two heavyweight title fights.
In an interview with MMA Fighting's Damon Martin, Cormier called it "f--king stupid" he was deliberately poking Miocic in the eye:
"I'm not purposely poking him in the eye. That first fight, I kind of poked him in the eye, but the issue with that was sometimes when I spar and because I'm shorter, I have the 16-ounce gloves, I can kind of flick my hand towards guys and hit them when they're a little bit out of range. I think that's what happened the first time."
Cormier won the UFC heavyweight championship by knocking out Miocic in the first round at UFC 226 in July 2018.
Miocic told ESPN's Brett Okamoto that an accidental eye-poke early in the round impacted his performance: "That hurt, and it definitely f--ked me up a little bit. I didn't realize the referee was warning him about it until after, when my coaches told me. They were all pissed. No excuses, but that s--t hurt. And it's not like it was just a little poke, it was knuckle deep."
When the two met in a rematch last August at UFC 241, Miocic exacted revenge by regaining the title with a fourth-round TKO. Miocic's agent, Jim Walter, told Okamoto the following month his client wouldn't fight until 2020 after having surgery to fix a "major retina injury from multiple eye pokes during his bout at UFC 241."
UFC has set up a third fight between Cormier and Miocic for the heavyweight championship. That bout will take place at UFC 252 on Aug. 15 in Las Vegas.