If you happen to be at the MGM Grand Spa this week, and you just so happen to see Daniel Cormier coming out of the sauna, do yourself a favor and leave the UFC 187 headliner alone.
Cormier, who is taking on Anthony Johnson for the light heavyweight title this weekend, has already successfully made the cut down to 205 pounds on three previous occasions. So there’s no reason to believe that he won’t make weight come Friday.
But still, fitness pros and boxers claiming an association with Floyd Mayweather’s The Money Team, from San Jose, all the way down to Las Vegas, seem to feel free to offer Cormier their unsolicited opinions.
“I’m getting out of the sauna the other day, at weight, and some dude walks up [and says] ‘hey man, let me tell you how to get this weight off,’” recollects Cormier. “Get out of here! … I’m sitting all there in my underwear … and then they charge me 20 bucks a person.”
For Cormier, the fear and anxiety of the cut has never truly subsided, despite an unblemished record of making weight as a professional mixed martial artist. But when his fight camp for a June 6 Fight Night card in New Orleans against Ryan Bader took a sudden detour, magically turning into abbreviated preparations for Johnson and the belt, Cormier’s instincts kicked in quick—and out came the broiled salmon, replacing the fried chicken.
In retrospect, the shortened fight camp may have been a positive thing for Cormier, who is in good spirits just 96 hours away from fight night, smiling and joking around with boxing coach Rosendo Sanchez. The pair spent 14 weeks preparing for Cormier’s failed UFC 182 bid against Jon Jones, and Sanchez still feels the camp’s sheer duration, combined with Cormier’s tumultuous rivalry with the ex-communicated champion, burnt the American Kickboxing Academy captain out before he even stepped into the cage in January 2015.
“I think it was a blessing in disguise for him. I think the last camp was just way too long. So it was like we peaked at the wrong time. There’s just so much energy into this fight … the shorter was better for us, for him,” comments Sanchez. “Some people say you gotta get your whole 8 weeks or your 10 weeks of camp to go out and perform right. For some people it’s like that, for some people it’s not. And he’s one of these guys that he was already working hard with [UFC heavyweight champ] Cain [Velasquez] pushing him, and all his other sparring partners and all his other coaches.”
Sanchez has become a constant companion for Cormier in the last few years. And, with Cormier’s aversion to traveling alone (something he himself attests to), Sanchez can be found atop the entourage during fight week, even if it means joining Velasquez and Crazy Bob Cook in the sauna, or even fighting other coaches on the extended staff for amusement.
See AKA goes hard during camp, and not only has Cormier been fighting Velasquez regularly for the last eight weeks in practice. But during fight week, when training slows and the duo can no longer hit each other, Cormier ups the sadistic ante, challenging his coaches to battle it out in front of him, creating mini combat spectacles as a distraction from the discomfort of cutting weight.
Fortunately, for Sanchez, he’s a high-level boxer. Although it doesn’t always work out that well for some of the other guys …
“I hate being by myself cutting weight. So I got … 10 or 11 guys … last time we had an exhibition boxing match between my boxing coaches … that was fun … there had to be 45 people in there watching, screaming,” mentions Cormier. “And this time, my masseuse is fighting against my strength coach.”
The strategy seems to be working thus far. Cormier’s mood is jovial as he trades battle stories and anecdotes with heavyweight Travis Browne, who also has an important fight coming up on the UFC 187 main card. And, the contrast in Cormier’s demeanor, as compared to the lead up to UFC 182, has played an essential role in his ability to overcome professional adversity and make a quick return to the Octagon.
On Saturday, just 140 days after faltering against Jones, losing a title fight in a challenging role, Cormier will compete in a second straight championship bout. It’s not the first time this scenario has occurred in the UFC; former two-division Pride champion Dan Henderson once fought for the light heavyweight and middleweight belts on back-to-back occasions, losing both. But it’s a rare feat in itself, and Cormier understands the opportunity he’s been given following the decision to remove Jones from the fight card and relieve him of his duties as champ.
“I don’t know if I would have did everything right on January 3rd if I would have won anyway … [but] I wanna be the champion it doesn’t matter who it is,” states Cormier. “My mind is at ease, much more this time. Not as much stress, not as much animosity.”
And now with just the final days of the weight cut and a few lingering media obligations remaining before Friday’s weigh in, Cormier is keeping loose, avoiding the fried onion rings placed in front of him, and concentrating on more comedic aspects of the fight game.
“Master Steven Seagal … he fucked Luke [Rockhold] up,” adds Cormier. “He kicked Luke’s ass … this dude is huge … he’s so into the martial arts culture.”
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