The curious case of Daniel Cormier will finally end at UFC 252… he was MMA’s nice guy but fans turned on him with mystifying hate – and then he learned to embrace the dark side! Now, Stipe Miocic fight will define his true legacy
- Daniel Cormier is preparing for final fight of his career against Stipe Miocic
- It is legacy-defining trilogy clash and Cormier has seen it all over the years
- Perception among fans has wildly varied and he was hugely unpopular for a time
- Now the boos have subsided and once again Cormier is a much-loved fighter
Few fighters have experienced wildly fickle treatment from fans like Daniel Cormier.
The former two-weight champion will close the curtain on his career with a legacy-defining fight against Stipe Miocic at UFC 252 this Saturday and the 41-year-old has seen it all.
Perception of Cormier has veered from overwhelmingly positive to mystifyingly negative with boo-boys following at every event and press conference.
Daniel Cormier has gone from being loved to hated and then loved again by many MMA fans
Cormier is a great ambassador for the sport and family man so boos in the past were bizarre
He’s now back in the good books, popularity soaring once more, particularly in light of his superb colour commentary on UFC broadcasts.
But why did he go from being a lovable teddy-bear character in his early days, to evoking such hostility?
Cormier is an eloquent man, has a compelling back story and is tipped by some to eventually succeed Dana White as UFC president.
He runs a wrestling program for kids at AKA Wrestling Club, helping children ages five to 12.
A dedicated husband and father, he suffered the devastating loss of his three-month-old daughter Kaedyn in a car accident in 2003.
Cormier dealt with the bereavement inspirationally.
‘I asked myself the question “Is this going to cost you, or is this going to propel you and be a force of inspiration for you?” That’s what it became’, he told the the undefeated.
Cormier responded to the tragic loss of his daughter in an inspirational way
‘Everything I did every day of my life going forward was for Kaedyn. For a long time, it was singular. She may have been the guiding force of everything I was doing, from the moment she passed in 2003 until 2011 when I had (my son) Daniel. She has always been my guiding light.’
It is still baffling, even to the sport’s aficionados, that Cormier ever sparked such hate from some quarters.
The negativity appeared to begin after his bitter rival Jon Jones was stripped of the UFC light-heavyweight title three times between 2015-17.
Jones failed drugs tests, was arrested for a hit-and-run on a pregnant woman and was the antithesis to Cormier’s unblemished image.
But when Cormier defeated Anthony Johnson to claim the vacant light-heavyweight crown, he was regarded by many as a fake champion. Jones had never been defeated so the belt lacked legitimacy.
Of course, this was in no way the fault of the new champion but somehow the tables had turned and momentum grew. Fans loved the ‘bad guy’ Jones and gradually turned on Cormier.
He was also perceived by some to have a boring style, particularly in a short notice fight against Anderson Silva, who was given a hero’s welcome by fans for stepping up on short notice.
Initially, the cacophony of boos shook Cormier. He later admitted: ‘The first time it happened I kind of got angry. I was upset and I tried to explain it – it just didn’t make any sense. But now, I can’t really try and dictate people’s emotions.’
And White added: ‘Very few people can handle that and not be affected by it, especially when you’re a guy like Cormier who does everything right. He’s a good guy and to get booed, I think it messes with him a little bit.
The former two-weight champion is fighting for the final time this Saturday at UFC 252
‘Cormier is a great champion, a great ambassador for the sport, you know what my theory is for people who boo? F*** them.’
The UFC president went on: ‘It’s the weirdest thing ever that he has not been embraced by the fans, he’s a great guy. He’s very well spoken and his fights are exciting. Cormier is an exciting fighter, its a weird thing.
‘They like the bad boy, Jon Jones. Last time we had a press conference for those two, they were cheering Jones and booing Cormier. It’s fascinating, I don’t get it.’
In the post-fight interview with Cormier after he beat Johnson with the crowd booing loudly, even Joe Rogan said he couldn’t understand why it was happening.
Cormier responded: ‘Boo me, I’m getting money and championship belts!’
It marked a change in tack. He was now embracing the image and playing the villain to his advantage.
He previously outlined his different approach: ‘I will say all the stuff you hate me saying. You hate that I make fun of [Jon Jones] for his addictions? I will say every one of those addictions and I’ll list them all out.
Cormier is now a much-loved part of the UFC broadcast team with Joe Rogan and Jon Anik
Cormier has no idea why he became popular among fans again and didn’t change anything
‘Before it was like, I don’t think they’ll boo me for it. Okay, you’ll boo me for it? You don’t like that? I’d kind of feel out what people liked and didn’t like. And the things I got the most hate, on Twitter, I would start to say it in public. If you want me to be your bad guy, I’ll be your bad guy. I just kind of gauge it.’
There was no longer a sense that Cormier was desperate to be liked and the tide of public opinion began to shift back again.
His gregarious personality came to the fore in the commentary booth and scintillating performances against Volkan Oezdemir, Derrick Lewis and Miocic certainly helped.
When he was introduced to the crowd at the UFC’s 25th anniversary press conference, Cormier was given a rapturous ovation.
Chants of ‘Let’s go DC!’ echoed around the arena, replacing the abuse he’d been subjected to.
And the Louisiana native is in the dark over why fans made such an about turn again in the past couple of years.
‘I don’t know what I did,’ he said. ‘I didn’t really do anything. I did the exact same thing. They decide when they like you and when they don’t.’
From boos to cheers and now silence. There will be no fans inside Apex Arena this weekend to watch Cormier’s final fight.
Whatever the result, Cormier will hang up his gloves not just as a legend, but one of MMA’s most deservedly popular and respected fighters.
The 41-year-old could bow out as the greatest UFC heavyweight if he wins on Saturday
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