Daniel Cormier screams in the dimly lit bathroom. In a quarter of an hour on Saturday night, the 39-year-old will enter Madison Square Garden and successfully defend his heavyweight title with challenger Derrick Lewis in the second round. He wants to consolidate his heritage as one of the best UFC fighters of all time. That's how he always gets ready.
He walks back and forth, past the sink and the soap dispenser, and the music roars through an open door. His breath is deep and measured. He inhales gently through his nose and pricks his mouth out. His gaze is fixed on the tiled floor, ignoring his reflection. His wrists are taped. He reaches the toilet, turns around and continues to talk to himself.
COME ON, DC!
LET'S GO BABY!
KICK HIS ASS, DC!
This guy has nothing for you!
In the brightly lit press conference room, Bob Cook smiles. It is one and a half hours later. He stands near the back and grabs a piece of pepperoni pizza. As a longtime entertainer and coach, Cook watches as Cormier performs this amusing pump-up ritual before each fight. "Just talk to yourself in the third person," Cook says with a laugh. Whatever works for the champion.
Above all, it was a refreshing return to normal after a nerve-racking foray. At around 10 am, Cormier awoke in his Manhattan hotel room as he relished and slipped his back. He tried to keep on making soldiers, tried a light run, but his muscles remained stiff. And so he spent the day over a massage table, getting rubbed while attached to a stim device. "If you're not feeling better, we'll have to make a decision about whether you'll fight or not," Cook had warned.
When Cormier awoke after a nap, his back broke. From there, he did just what many expected from a mind-blowing favorite at minus 500: he wriggled his opponent's right hand, knocking the 6-foot-3 Lewis to the ground and realizing his tactical advantages instead to join in a firefight of the fists. But Cormier had everyone worried for a while. "It was very scary," he told reporters, "because I had no idea how to explain it. I sneezed and hurt my back. This is to become old."
The end is indeed close to the octagon. "Father Time knocks on the door," says Cook, "and we will not win this fight." Assuming that he honors his long-promised promise, there is only one main card left before Cormier retires after celebrating his 40th birthday in March. The obvious choice for a final boss is Brock Lesnar, though Cormier could not rule out returning to light heavyweight when Jon Jones becomes available. As it stands, no other fighter has ever held multiple belts at once – and defended both successfully. "That's why you can not deny it," says Javier Mendez, another of Cormier's combat trainers. "He is the greatest of times."
A large number of fans might disagree with what is to be judged by the speckled stalls that accompanied every Cormier takedown attempt. But Cormier is a diligent student of the sport and devours the movie during the Fight Week. He understood that even trade in armbars was too risky given Lewis's colossal power and knockout potential. Therefore, Cook had warned him against putting Cormier's clear path to victory through the "ego in his path." "Only choking was allowed," says Mendez. "And DC has not exchanged with him. We did not want that. It would have been more exciting for the fans, but we could have been on the other side of a loss. He did it perfectly. "
There was another reason why Cormier went to the mat. In the destruction of Stipe Miocic to claim the heavyweight title at UFC 226 in July, Cormier suffered a broken ankle and a dislocated joint on his right index finger. He took his hand through a short-term training camp and hoped it would heal in time. "It's still not 100 percent," says Cook. "That was one of the things we dealt with. We were worried, will you break it again? "
No need. After beating off several surprising kicks, Cormier scored an early takedown against Lewis, who rolled for the remainder of the opening round. Lewis finally joined with a blow that Cormier said had left his point of view fogged, but hardly missed any other haymakers. Finally, Cormier rose from a headlock, squeezing Lewis's ankles and sending the 265-pounder backwards. In his corner in Cormier's corner, Mendez saw his fighter climb aboard and stretch an arm under Lewis's chin. He said, "It's over."
After persuading the tapout at 2:14, Cormier rose and waved his hands on his two belts. Nearby, with an incredulous shake of his head, Lewis stepped over a stool. The mighty Houston resident gained a viral advantage over Alexander Volkov in Las Vegas, Bucharest last month, earning a sponsorship deal with Popeyes and a title shot at Cormier, whom he joined as a Plus 390 outsider. It was not hard to see why in hindsight. "Derrick is a specialist," Cormier said. "They fight with guys who can do just about anything."
This is especially true for Cormier, the college's former American and Olympic wrestler, who also commented on UFC games, ran a weekly studio show, ran a youth wrestling club in San Jose and, to show only, served as a full-time director Coach of the Gilroy High School team. All of these options remain open when Cormier decides to leave the octagon, regardless of what happens in the next five months to his birthday. In this regard, Saturday night should always be another springboard, a final crescendo that culminated in his career. The champion did not slip.
As summer time comes and goes, Cormier enters the press conference room and sits down at a table flanked by two shimmering straps. His two children, seven-year-old Daniel and six-year-old Keke, watch attentively from the second row, presumably well beyond their bedtime, but for good reason. Cook stands behind the camera riser in the background and is asked if he really believes that Cormier will give up after their next fight. The coach takes a break.
"We'll see," says Cook. "I do not know, he is a competitor, he loves to compete, it will be very hard for him to quit, he participates in competitions since he was a little kid, this is a difficult transition, if you loved and Who knows how many times we'll see him in the ring, but I'd love it if he had stopped. "