It was the ever-lasting shadow of the bad boy former UFC light heavyweight champion, Jon Jones that everyone who consumed the UFC seemed to love and forgive no matter what. For the fans, there was nothing that Jones could do that would turn them away and through it all, his bitter rival stood across from him.
That rival, Daniel Cormier, was a former Olympic medalist, a collegiate champion wrestler, a former Strikeforce heavyweight champion, and the only one standing in his way of the UFC light heavyweight championship was Jones.
Throughout his entire career, Cormier has shown to be the perfect example as to what it means to be a champion and a true ambassador of the UFC, and through it all, he always played second fiddle to “Bones” Jones.
As Jones stole the spotlight and the fanfare, Cormier continued to press forward figuratively and literally throughout his career and never accepted being second. Even after Jones found himself in legal trouble outside of the Octagon after their first fight at UFC 182, Cormier made sure to take advantage of the opportunity and defeated Anthony Johnson for the vacant belt at UFC 187. While his rival stayed on the sidelines, Cormier excelled time and time again.
Fast forward to UFC 200, where the highly-anticipated rematch was set to take place and the bad-boy everyone gave a pass to, failed a drug test and the rematch was off. After once again sitting on the sidelines, Jones could do nothing but watch as Cormier thrived in the spotlight.
Finally, UFC 214 arrived and after all the outside interference, Cormier and Jones stepped into the Octagon to settle the score. Unfortunately for “DC”, Jones landed a head-kick that put Cormier way and he went down 0-2 against Jones.
While many praised and welcome backed Jones with open arms, there was laughter and mockery of Cormier, who did an interview with tears coming down his eyes as he said, “I guess there is no rivalry if you lose to the same guy twice,” but then the story would change forever.
Following his victory over Cormier at UFC 214, Jones would get flagged by USADA in a case that has yet to be resolved, but his win over Cormier was overturned to a no-contest and D.C. would have a chance to validate his championship reign at light heavyweight.
That validation would come at UFC 220 in Boston, where Cormier defeated top-contender Volkan Oezdemir to once again be the light heavyweight champion, and with Jones’ future up in the air, Cormier and the UFC found a pathway to put the rival in his rear-view mirror and write a new chapter of his legacy that he created for himself.
Enter, Stipe Miocic. The UFC’s most-successful heavyweight champion, who has the most title defenses in the promotion’s history defeated what was said to be the scariest challenge in Francis Ngannou, on the same night Cormier defeated Oezdemir but no one could’ve seen what would happen next.
Shortly after both men were victorious, they were announced as coaches for The Ultimate Fighter (27): Undefeated and Cormier would jump to heavyweight, where he has been undefeated in his career, and take on Miocic at UFC 226 with the possibility of becoming a two-weight world champion on the table.
During the lead-up, it was asked several times to Cormier how it felt to get the opportunities that many believed Jones would’ve received if he had not been his own worst enemy, and to Cormier’s credit, he welcomed all that was being thrown his way.
How could he not? Cormier is an analyst for the UFC on Fox Sports, a broadcaster for certain fight nights and makes a great partner to Joe Rogan and Jon Anik, he’s the head coach of American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, and he’s never failed a drug test or disrespected the sport in his career. These opportunities have been given to others while there was no one more deserving than Cormier.
The spotlight fell on Miocic and Cormier at UFC 226 and it only took one round to cement Cormier’s legacy. As the clock was nearing the end of the first round, Cormier landed a huge shot on Miocic, followed that up with ground-and-pound, and as Marc Goddard stepped in to stop the fight, Cormier had achieved it all. He became the second fighter ever to hold two belts simultaneously and Jon Jones became nothing more than a whisper in the loud cheers heard inside the T-Mobile Arena that night.
In a sport where currently, the most popular and beloved fighter in the UFC, Conor McGregor, hasn’t fought for the promotion since 2016 and has since lost a boxing match to Floyd Mayweather and attacked a bus full of fighters to try and draw more eyes to a potential fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov, Cormier has been the perfect person inside the promotion.
A company man, a teammate, a coach, and a two-weight world champion, Cormier has put Jones in his past, and he’s turned the boos into cheers. The criticism of him never defeating Jones has turned into the realization that Jones beat himself, and Cormier just capitalized on every opportunity thrown his way.
In a sport where the bad boys have always come out on top, finally, in DC, the good guy has finally won in mixed martial arts.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 7/10/2018