Cormier Living Out Worst Nightmare After Rematch Loss to Jones at UFC 214

Over the past few days, the story of Daniel Cormier’s UFC 214 defeat has stolen the spotlight from Jon Jones’ return and redemption. While the media has been largely respectful of the former UFC champion’s soul-crushing second loss at his nemesis’ hands, the community as a whole has not. No small number of fans have rounded on “DC” post-fight, firing off poisoned barbs while taking a perverse delight in his downfall. Did he deserve it? No, but more to the point, did Daniel Cormier engineer his own evisceration?

As the second round of his championship headliner ended, Daniel Cormier appeared to be finding his rhythm. After a close first frame that could have gone either way, his movement seemed smoother and his shots were getting through his opponent’s guard. If he was lucky he might have been two rounds up against long time rival Jon Jones, but the worst case scenario was one apiece and the momentum was certainly on his side. It was early doors, but the confidence was palpable as “DC” came out swinging in round three.

Then, disaster.

Jon Jones isn’t viscerally violent in the mold of a Chuck Liddell or Wanderlei Silva. His brutality is more clinical, but no less effective. A shrieking leg kick seemed to materialise on the champion’s temple as if out of thin air and the challenger smelled blood. A chopping kick kept “DC” off balance and Jones pounced, delivering volley after volley of perfectly placed fight-ending shots until his opponent’s body simply gave up and went limp. But as Jones celebrated his redemption, focus remained on the wilted, groggy figure of Cormier being dragged unceremoniously to his feet and poured onto a stool, like a drunk being given one last chance before that inevitable 86’ing.

Like a drunk, Cormier appeared to angrily brush away the helping hands those trying to assist him, remonstrating with officials and anyone else who tried to guide him around the Octagon. He made numerous attempts to leave the cage, with UFC President Dana White eventually grabbing his wrist and imparting some wisdom in an effort to reason with the shell-shocked fighter. Matters weren’t helped by Joe Rogan attempting an ill-advised interview, with Cormier awkwardly stumbling through his reply to a question he in all likelihood couldn’t remember. Rogan – an outspoken critic of interviewing fighters after KO losses – has since issued a sincere apology.

During the course of the post-fight chaos and confusion, cameras picked up some heart-wrenching shots of a visibly broken Cormier, openly weeping under the bright lights and into the television sets of millions of onlookers. In an age where we watch fights on our phones, computers, games consoles and smart TVs, it took just seconds for what should have been an intensely private moment of despair to go viral over social media in an outpouring of Schadenfreude.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. 

Imagine, if you will, that the shoe was on the other foot. For his part, Jon Jones comes packaged with ready made excuses. He was out for too long, he had too much pressure on his shoulders, he’s got a coke problem, he’s unfocused… were he to have tasted defeat on Saturday we’d have had plenty of pre-loaded reasons as to why. Cormier, on the other hand, eliminated all doubt. He was fit, he was well and he was focused. No injuries, a perfect camp; when the time came to compete the only variable would be who the better man was and for the second time in his career, it wasn’t “DC.” This wasn’t a lucky punch or poor preparation; this was a man at his best, realizing that his best wasn’t good enough.

That’s what makes the online evisceration of the former Olympian so much more brutal, knowing that for “DC,” this is it at light heavyweight. In a sport where second chances are all but guaranteed as the UFC looks to squeeze every last drop out of lucrative rivalries, third chances are largely unheard of. Jones is a blot he’ll never get out of his copy book and even in the event that the new champ somehow screws up again and Cormier re-captures the 205lb title, there will always be an asterisk on his record.  

But let’s take a step back.

This kind of behavior is nothing new in MMA. Even in the days before ‘memes’ were instantly accessible via social media apps, long time fans will remember legendary threads on the Sherdog Forums like “Shoop that Rashad,” where pictures of KO’d fighters were photoshopped into various scenes and poses for comedy effect. Pictures, “gifs” and hot-takes are simply how this generation expresses itself and reacts to current affairs.

Yet while the likes of Michael Bisping and the aforementioned Rashad Evans were made figures of fun due to the striking visuals of how they’d lost, in Cormier’s case it seemed that people were deriving pleasure because he’d lost. So what was the difference?

It’s no secret that the people who make big money in prizefighting are the ones that effectively polarize opinion. Yes, you need to be good at fighting, but as the likes of Demetrious Johnson and Tyron Woodley are finding out, winning alone doesn’t cut it. If you want serious money, you have to act in a way that makes people want to pick a side. It doesn’t even matter which side they pick, as long as they really love you or really hate you. Fan ambiguity is poison to a prizefighter.

Daniel Cormier is really good at getting people to pick a side. Over the years he has acted in a certain way at certain times and it’s made people either back him to the end or yearn for his proverbial head on a spike. That polarizing personality has earned him some serious pay-days (he took home a cool million in base pay for UFC 214) and even netted him a secondary revenue source as a fight analyst on FOX.

The problem with making people pick a side though, is that inevitably some of those people will pick against you. Just as those who pay to watch you win become invested in your success, those who pay to see you lose become invested in your failure.

“DC” didn’t exactly make that choice difficult either. As many have pointed out, he was an equal party to the years of trash talk between himself and Jones, some might say often times the instigator. And while a lot of that should be put down to the crass but necessary art of selling a fight to the UFC’s target demographic, “DC” has been open about the fact that his hatred of Jones is just as much personal as it is professional. Cormier hounded him in the media for years, even without a fight on the horizon. While it’s true that ‘Bones’ is an infinitely unlikeable individual at times, Cormier never hesitated to put the boot in when it came to his well-documented issues outside the cage.

When a 38-year-old man talks that amount of trash for so long, belittles and ridicules an opponent on a personal level while sat smugly on the moral high ground, then gets beaten up and cries about it, how are those fans Cormier played the bad guy so well for supposed to react?  

Let’s be clear: It’s not cool, nice or particularly productive to take pleasure in someone’s misfortune or failure. And no, unless you’ve poured your heart and soul into something (whether it be fighting, sports, business or love) and come up short, you’ll never appreciate the heartache that Cormier was going through. Still, it takes equally as little thought to post an “It’s not the critic that counts…” meme. Prizefighting is a cruel game, perhaps crueler than most. Cormier knew the rules when he started playing. He put himself in the firing line on purpose and when he cashes that million dollar check and sets his sights on the heavyweight title – possibly his last ever run in the sport –  you can bet the house that playing it again will be the first thing on his mind. 

Written by Brad Wharton

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