UFC

Daniel Cormier Is Giving Back and Looking Forward to Title Run in LHW Division

Feb 22, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA;  Daniel Cormier (red gloves) celebrates his victory of Pactrick Cummins (not pictured) after their UFC light heavyweight bout at Mandalay Bay. Cormier won by way of a TKO in the first round. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Duane FinleyContributor IMarch 5, 2014

There is something beyond the physical act of returning to the place you come from that helps put the movie of life into perspective. Things tend to slow down and snap into focus, providing an outline to the route traveled from a personal starting point.

Daniel Cormier has never forgotten the place that molded and prepared him for the road ahead. Before he was a standout collegiate wrestler, a two-time Olympian and an undefeated contender in two divisions in the UFC, "D.C." was a kid from Louisiana who was looking to make good on lofty dreams.

This past week, the 34-year-old returned—with family in tow—to give something back to the community that helped build his foundation.

Coming off a successful showing in his first bout in the 205-pound ranks, the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner could have tuned out the world and settled into a well-earned vacation back home in Lafayette, La., and the world would have continued to turn. Yet, as a product of that environment, he was aware of how important it was for someone of his stature to give back, and that's exactly what he decided to do.

Feb 22, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Patrick Cummins (blue gloves) throws his hands up as Daniel Cormier lies on the mat after the referee stops their UFC light heavyweight bout at Mandalay Bay. Cormier won by way of a TKO in the first round. Mandatory Credi
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

In cooperation with several wrestling clubs in the Lafayette area, he held a free wrestling seminar for children in his hometown. Throughout his career, he has been vocal about how wrestling shaped him as a man. He was not going to pass up the opportunity to provide guidance and tutelage to youths who are standing in shoes he once wore. 

"I have a friend who has a youth club down in Lafayette," Cormier told Bleacher Report. "He's the coach—been coaching for a long time—and I asked him to get in contact with the rest of the clubs here and tell them I was going to do a free two-hour seminar. I just remember growing up that I had to go all over the country to get time with Olympians and NCAA champions. I had to constantly travel to work with national champions and next-level wrestlers who could teach me a lot of the things I needed to learn. Being from here, I figured I could just set something up and give it away for free.

"It's unbelievable what this sport has done for me. I think it's great not only because I'm able to give something to these kids they wouldn't normally get, but I just believe so much in this sport. Not only do I think this sport helps you physically and mentally, it helps you learn how to stand on your own.

"When you go play basketball you have five people on that court with you who are your teammates. When you play football there is 11. But in wrestling, it teaches you how to be confident enough to go into the middle of the gym by yourself and compete.

"When you do that, you can do just about anything," he added. "I believe that so much, and the chance to give back to these kids and give them a chance to take from it what I took from it is an opportunity you can't really pass up."

Feb 22, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Patrick Cummins (blue gloves)  falls to the mat after being hit by Daniel Cormier (red gloves) during their UFC light heavyweight bout at Mandalay Bay. Cormier won by way of a TKO in the first round. Mandatory Credit: Ste
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

After his victory at UFC 170, Cormier will enjoy his week back in "The Bayou State" just as his new division and the title picture at 205 are about to heat up. Recent title challenger Alexander Gustafsson will step back into action on Saturday to face Jimi Manuwa in London, and "The Mauler" is set to earn another title opportunity should he defeat the heavy-handed Brit.

With a Gustafsson win, Cormier's path to the title will take an extended route. Yet, if the Swede falls on Saturday, the AKA staple is looking to make a serious play for championship gold. 

And that is where things get tricky.

With his current position in the light heavyweight fold being somewhat uncertain at the present time, his next step will be determined by how several high-profile matchups play out in the coming weeks. He could potentially face a number of top-ranked fighters who will be coming out of showcase tilts, and he's ready to charge in whatever direction is needed.

That said, he wants nothing more than a shot at the title and champion Jon Jones. While he knows that a win over a green prospect like Patrick Cummins isn't a qualifier, he has decided to turn the spotlight on the impressive resume he's built in his short career. Cormier has defeated a collection of vastly more experienced former champions and contenders and believes his past work and accomplishments should warrant him a title opportunity.

Oct 19, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) fights against Roy Nelson (blue gloves) in their heavyweight bout during UFC 166 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

"There really aren't many opportunities to get back in there right now because everyone that's highly ranked are all tied up," Cormier said. "The only fighter open would be [Antonio Rogerio] Nogueira, and I don't really know what he's doing right now. If he's healthy, I'd love to fight him. He's a veteran, and I think he's accomplished a lot in this sport. He's the only guy that isn't tied up with a fight right now, but I don't have a problem waiting. 

"[Alexander] Gustafsson fights this weekend, and we'll see how he does. If he wins, I think he definitely deserves his rematch, then I would fight the winner of Anthony Johnson vs. Phil Davis or Shogun Rua and Dan Henderson have a fight coming up too. There are options after all these fights take place, but there is really nothing out there for me right now. I just have to wait, hold tight, and if Gustafsson does not win, hope the UFC sees that I'm the next guy that should rightfully fight for the championship."

While Cormier's vision of the landscape of the division's upper tier seems accurate, he wasn't done making his case. The undefeated contender added another wrinkle to what has become a crowded picture. 

May 19, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; Daniel Cormier poses with the championship belt after defeating Josh Barnett (not pictured) during the heavyweight tournament final bout of the Strikeforce World Grand Prix at HP Pavilion.  Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

"Here are some quick facts, so listen to this," Cormier explained. "Nick Diaz fought for a UFC championship. Gilbert Melendez is going on his second title shot. Alistair Overeem was scheduled to fight for a championship. Dan Henderson was scheduled to fight for the championship against Jon Jones, but it got cancelled. Jake Shields and Miesha Tate have both fought for championships. Luke Rockhold is the only outside of myself that was a Strikeforce belt holder and that has not fought for a belt yet. 

"If Gustafsson wins, he rightfully deserves his rematch. That said, if Gustafsson doesn't win, I don't see why I wouldn't get my chance when everyone else has gotten a chance to fight for a title in the UFC. I'm by no means saying I'm trying to skip him, but I'm ready to fight for the belt. I think it's time.

"This is also a situation you have to be careful in," he added. "After winning my last fight, I don't want to seem cartoonish by asking for a title shot after beating a guy who was 4-0. I understand that, and I get it. I'm not asking for a championship fight based on that. I'm asking for a championship fight based on my resume and my career.

"When I had seven wins, I was fighting Jeff Monson, who had 60 fights. I fought Bigfoot Silva when I was less than two years into my career. I beat Josh Barnett and Frank Mir, who were both former UFC champions. I beat Roy Nelson, who has been a Top 10 guy for a very long time. I'm asking for a title shot based on the four Top 10 wins I have over the course of my career." 

 

Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.

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