It’s been over six months since Strikeforce Grand Prix Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier last fought. Needless to say, Cormier can’t wait to get back into the cage as part as of Strikeforce’s last event, especially because it’s taking place in the backyard of his old stomping ground, Oklahoma. Regardless of having signed a contract with the UFC in advance of this fight, Cormier isn’t looking past his opponent, Dion Staring, in any sort of way.
It’s been awhile since Cormier’s last fight, not that he had any choice in the matter. Originally, Cormier was supposed to have fought UFC veteran Frank Mir, but Mir suffered an injury prior to their September 2012 match-up which they were set to headline. Then, weeks went by with Cormier receiving no word of a new opponent. When more fighters on the same card faced injuries, Strikeforce cancelled the event.
When November rolled around, Cormier was again expected to fight. But that card was also cancelled and the Strikeforce train’s derailment became inevitable. With the curtains closing on the organization’s three year, two month run, Cormier’s set to scrap back where his wrestling and MMA career first started on Strikeforce’s final fight card. When Cormier joined MMA Fight Corner on Tuesday night, he detailed how interesting it is that for his final Strikeforce bout, he finds himself back where it all started.
“It’s good to be back and you know being able to be in front of all the people that got to see me wrestle throughout my career and also the people who got to see me my very first fight in Tulsa in 2009,” the Oklahoma State University alumnus said of fighting back in the state where he’d lived for eleven years. “It’s crazy that I had my first Strikeforce fight in Oklahoma and I’m going to have my last Strikeforce fight in Oklahoma. Not many times do things come full circle like that. I’m kind of one of the lucky people that actually have the chance to do that. I’m actually really enjoying it.”
Even with a new contract in place with the UFC, the end of the Strikeforce era has Cormier somewhat melancholy despite the snags that he’s experienced being a part of the promotion in the past six months.
“It’s very sad. I’m very happy to be moving on to the UFC, obviously anybody that fights at the highest levels kind of owes it to themselves to fight in the show at some point and the UFC is the show. But, it’s sad to see the place that actually helped me to build my name, and they helped me to make some money and start building my career, it’s hard to see it go,” Cormier stated. “I don’t know exactly how I’m going to feel when I go into the arena Saturday night and when I leave the arena after the fight on Saturday night, but I’m just looking forward to it. It’s pretty sad, I wish it didn’t happen this way, but all things happen for a reason. But there’s going to be a lot of guys that are going to over to the UFC and they’re going to get the opportunity to fight some big fights.”
Though the fight cancellations and ability for Cormier to fight again in 2012 was out of his control, Daniel’s remained a consummate professional through it all. With the ups and downs he’s been through with Strikeforce, Daniel said knowing he has UFC fights on the horizon provides him with hope for consistency where his career is concerned.
However, before he takes that next plunge Daniel knows that his next opponent is much more formidable than people think. The skillset that a southpaw striker like Dion Staring (26-7, MMA) brings to the table is the complete opposite of the wrestling and ground game that Cormier imposes in cage.
“In his stand-up, he trained in Amsterdam with Alistair for a long time and at Golden Glory. So for a guy with 35 fights and trains in that gym, you know he’s picked up some pretty good skills over the course of his career. And also the ability to make fights ugly, he’ll grab you, he’ll hold you, he’ll press you against that cage, he’ll throw big, looping punches and when a guy’s good at that, it’s hard to kind of counter. You have to be very careful, you have to prepare thoroughly for what type of fighting style he brings to the cage, and he does it every time too.”
When the sports books odds were posted for this fight, Cormier opened up as a heavy favorite to win at 20-1. Even if the odds have slightly come down to 18.5 to 1, Cormier said that he’s not pleased with anyone underrating Staring.
“It’s very unfair. It’s unfair to him and it’s disrespectful to Dion because of all that he’s done in his career. And it’s a little, it’s kind of unfair, there’s a lot of pressure that comes with that. Because I can go on not even thinking about it, but at some point someone’s going to bring it to my attention and it’s somewhat unfair both ways. But I think more than anything it’s disrespectful to him and everything he’s achieved in his career so far.”
With those kinds of odds also comes some added pressure for the former Olympian, who despite not having a fight in some time, never stopped training. Currently, Cormier has maintained an undefeated pro MMA record of 10-0. Of course, Daniel would love to go into the UFC at 11-0 and thus far, he’s done everything he can to insure that he does.
“I do my due diligience. I train in all areas that are going to be important in the fight and then I just trust in that. When you look back on everything that I’ve been through in my life, what’s the worst thing that can happen on Saturday is that I lose the fight? At the end of the day, that’s not the worse thing in the world. I can honestly tell you that. I’m prepared for anything and I can honestly sit here and tell you that I’m okay with any outcome of the fight because I know I train hard and I’ve done everything in my power to make sure I’m prepared for Saturday night.”
Once Saturday night is over, Daniel will have some serious decisions ahead of him to make about his UFC future. Since his AKA teammate Cain Velasquez is currently the UFC Heavyweight Champion, Daniel had previously said he may drop down to light heavyweight to avoid fighting his friend and teammate. However, Cormier said he feels he still has unfinished business to handle in the heavyweight division.
“As I told everybody, I’m fully focused on Dion Staring. I can’t wait to get in the cage with him on Saturday. But, I would still like to fight Frank Mir in April on FOX. But I’m fine at heavyweight for now, at least for this fight and the next fight, and then we’ll see what happens later. I haven’t made a decision to go down in weight yet.”
With Cormier’s impressive resume of NCAA wrestler, former Olympian, Strikeforce Grand Prix Heavyweight Champion and still undefeated MMA fighter, UFC President Dana White said following the UFC 155 post-fight press conference to assembled media that he’d be behind whatever Daniel decided to do, whether it’s fighting at heavyweight or 205 pounds. Cormier then added if he ever gets offered the opportunity to fight Jon Jones, he’s taking it.
Regardless of the outcome of Jon Jones vs Chael Sonnen in April at UFC 159, Cormier said he’d be happy to take on Jones next which he added would give him plenty of time to cut weight properly to fight at light heavyweight.
“When you get offered the opportunity to fight a guy who I believe is one of the top two pound-for-pound fighters in the world, only because of Anderson [Silva's] dominance for a long period of time, I would definitely entertain that fight.”
Strikeforce’s final fight card on Showtime takes place this Saturday, January 12th at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. The fights will be free to everyone as Showtime has announced that this weekend their channel is available for free preview. Daniel Cormier vs Dion Staring is the co-main of the evening. The main event is a welterweight title bout between Nate Marquardt and challenger, Tarec Saffiedine. Strikeforce’s main card will air at 10pm ET/PT on Showtime. The preliminary card begins airing at 8pm ET/5pm PT on Showtime Extreme.