March 20 was supposed to be the end of the road for Daniel Cormier.
That’s the day Cormier turns 40 and he’d publicly mapped out a path that would see him retire this year and move on from the rigors of combat sports. With three title fights in 2018, including a win and defense of the UFC heavyweight championship, Cormier was poised to go out with at least one more big money fight before walking away for good.
However, as of today, Cormier does not have his next fight scheduled. His body hasn’t been cooperating and he told Luke Thomas on The MMA Hour that it’s his back that’s been giving him problems lately after years of wear and tear as well as the unavoidable problems that come with age.
“I hurt my back in New York City when I sneezed. This was no joke and it’s just still trying to rehab it and get better,” Cormier said. “It was just me hurting my back. I put a lot of miles on myself in my life with the wrestling, but then last year was a big year and you don’t get to have that type of year at my age and not really feel the effects of it and I’m still going through that right now.”
Cormier went on to provide an update on his other bumps and bruises, including a nagging thumb injury that appears to have cleared up and a wrist injury that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“The thumb’s fine,” Cormier said. “I think a lot of times you get hurt in so many ways, but then when one thing overtakes the other one, you almost forget about it and then you start to focus on the back and getting the back better, and then the hand.
“My doctor said I’ve got arthritis in my wrist, that’s why my wrist bothers me all the time, so there’s nothing I’m really gonna be able to do about that. That’s just something I have to deal with, but the back has been the focus lately.”
Last year, Cormier was one of the UFC’s most active champions, defending his light heavyweight belt in January at UFC 220 with a second-round TKO of Volkan Oezdemir and then moving up to heavyweight in July to fight Stipe Miocic at UFC 226. Cormier defeated Miocic by first-round knockout to claim the heavyweight crown, then proceeded to successfully defend that title four months later in Madison Square Garden against Derrick Lewis.
It was thought that Cormier’s thumb might prevent him from competing before the end of the year, but he accepted the Lewis fight anyway and went on to win by second-round submission. As his career winds down, Cormier couldn’t give a solid time frame for when he expects to fight next, but he doesn’t want to compete at less than his best again.
“I just don’t know if I’m gonna do what I did in New York again, where I have to fight where I’m not 110 percent,” Cormier said. “Because I truly do feel like the reason my back went out was because I went from zero to trying to prepare for a fight in three weeks and I can’t really do that. I need those first four weeks of a pre-training camp just to prepare my body to go through a full eight-week camp. I used to do 12 weeks, I did all that in four and that’s why my body started falling apart on me.
“12 weeks and I’m not at 100 percent, so say, I don’t know, spring? Summer? I don’t know. Not exactly sure yet.”
According to Cormier, UFC officials did what they could to accommodate his retirement plans and they looked to book him for UFC 235 on March 2, but he “wasn’t able to do it” because of “the injuries and the recovery.” Asked who he might have fought, Cormier said an opponent was never locked in.
As it stands, he’s still looking to match up with Brock Lesnar, the former UFC champion who has remained one of the biggest draws in both MMA and pro wrestling. And he isn’t ruling out the rematch that Miocic has been campaigning for since their first fight.
“I think maybe Lesnar next would be the fight,” Cormier said. “And again as I’ve always said, yeah I’ll fight Stipe again. It’s just the same exact thing.
“We’re not waiting for Brock Lesnar. Because of my injuries, I’m just not available to fight. If I was available to fight, I probably would have fought Stipe already. But I’m just not available to fight right now so we’ll see what happens with Lesnar and then we’ll address what’s after that.”