History is only written in black and white for Daniel Cormier.
Jon Jones was the undisputed pound-for-pound king, who spent years wreaking havoc on the light heavyweight division, and Cormier was one of the many challengers to try and fail at ousting him from his lofty throne.
The path to all-time greatness was neatly laid out in front of Jones brick by brick. Nothing could stand in his way — except for himself.
Multiple bad decisions outside of the sport eventually led to Jones being suspended indefinitely and stripped of the title. The light heavyweight king’s sudden departure breathed new life into the division by doling out second opportunities.
Cormier went from losing to Jones to defeating Anthony “Rumble” Johnson for the vacant title in merely a few months’ time. The new sheriff at light heavyweight hasn’t wasted any time making himself at home either. With only one successful UFC title defense under his belt, Cormier is already making demands for his rematch with the recently reinstated Jones.
“I think he’s the greatest fighter of all time,” Cormier said at the UFC 192 post-fight press conference. “And when he gets cleared to fight, we’ll fight. But I’m not gonna fight him in New York. So you guys can write that.”
Despite lingering legal hurdles, the UFC is targeting a rematch between Cormier and Jones on April 23 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. MMA has yet to be legalized in the state of New York. An inaugural event featuring the return of Jones, a former champion and New York native, against Cormier for the UFC title would do monster pay-per-view numbers.
But none of that matters if Cormier refuses to sign on the dotted line. As a champion, he doesn’t like the idea of his opponent having a home-field advantage. He would much rather fight Jones on neutral ground. In his eyes, the belt around his waist grants him the luxury of picking the venue.
“I’ve given [the UFC] a couple dates I’d be willing to look at,” Cormier told MMA journalist Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “Maybe you guys will know something soon. I’m going to make my decision as the champion sooner rather than later. Just put it like that.”
Cormier argues that Jones did the same thing as champion when offered to defend his title against Gustafsson in Sweden.
“Jon was completely against it. ‘I’m the champion. I should decide where I want to fight.’ If I’m not mistaken, it was something to that effect. It’s the same situation. I don’t understand how he can judge me differently than how he wants to judge himself,” said Cormier.
But it is completely different, whether Cormier wants to believe it or not.
Cormier is the real UFC champion, and no one can ever take that accomplishment away from him. The situation at light heavyweight isn’t as much to do about one man being perceived as a “paper champion” as it is about a fighter earning the respect of a champion.
When people look at Jones, they see an unbeaten champion who has defeated some of the greatest fighters to ever step in the octagon, but when they look at Cormier, they see a product of impeccable timing.
And that’s all MMA fans will ever see until he beats Jones. Gustafsson had already lost to Jones when the idea of an event in Sweden was floated out there. So it wasn’t nearly as big of a deal when Jones declined to fight the Swedish contender in his homeland.
Cormier had his chance to beat Jones on neutral ground and lost. One would think he would welcome the opportunity to quell all of the naysayers and prove himself as the legitimate 205-pound king. Imagine how the public would view him if he accepted a fight against Jones in New York and won.
Madison Square Garden would be raining cake and chicken.
The good a win like that would do for Cormier’s brand is immeasurable.