The Improbable Daniel Cormier Conquers Again

In 2009 I drove to watch the incomparable man-legend Fedor Emelianenko fight on American soil for only the second time in history. This was also the first time he would fight in a cage instead of a ring. The fight took place in Hoffman Estates, Il, and the rest of the card was equally impressive. Andre Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum, Mousasi against Sokoudjou and Jake Shields fought a still seemingly mentally healthy Jason “Mayhem” Miller. As we walked in toward our seats my brother announced, “Ed! That’s Daniel Cormier! That’s Daniel Cormier!” I looked over at a guy standing behind a table, waiting for anyone to talk with him. He looked emotionally bruised by all of the spectators walking by, unaware of who he was or why they would stop by to ask for his autograph. “Who? Who is that?” I asked.

My brother explained that Daniel Cormier was a wrestler, but had not only had he been a wrestler, he had been an Olympian. Cormier had earned the dreaded 4th place at the 2004 Athens Olympics. That’s the closest to the podium anyone can get, while still sitting on the sidelines with all of the other also-rans. At that point, when we went to watch Fedor knock out Brett Rogers, Daniel Cormier was 1 – 0 in his MMA career. He was just barely starting, waiting to sign autographs to anyone who might wonder who this guy was sitting at the table.

Daniel Cormier looked to be about my height (I’m 5’10”) which is way too small for a heavyweight anything, unless you’re built like Samoan specimen Mark Hunt, or Daniel Cormier it turns out. Cormier’s title shot may have come during a dark time in the UFC Heavyweight Division, but it was no gimme fight. Already the current Light Heavyweight Champion of the UFC, years ago Cormier won the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix after having bested Jeff Monson, Antonio Silva, and finally Josh Barnett. Cormier even rag-dolled Barnett, an accomplished lifelong grappler.

Daniel Cormier is about a head shorter than most heavyweights, as evidenced by the ribbing by fellow heavyweight Derrick Lewis earlier this week. Eye-poke weirdness notwithstanding, and a post-fight interview rife with the pro wrestling shtick of Brock Lesnar, Daniel Cormier used the clinch and dirty boxing to knock out Stipe Miocic, who’s shown some of the best boxing ever witnessed inside the UFC Heavyweight Division.

Today I’m thinking about that 1 – 0 fighter waiting for anyone to acknowledge his potential, and how my brother had to get his autograph. Nearly a decade later, and a hair under the age of 40, Daniel Cormier is the only human to simultaneously hold the Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight UFC belts. The world can now see who Daniel Cormier was working to become.