In March of 2011 it was a great day. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping and I had the day off so I joined up with a few of my partners in crime to spend an afternoon with a few adult beverages and cast a line in to do a little fishing.
We were set up out of town and service range so when I got a broken-up phone call from a friend of mine (who is a major prankster) saying that UFC brought Strikeforce I dismissed it, thinking he was playing a joke on me. It didn’t make sense, 2011 looked like the year for them to become a player – The Heavyweight Grand Prix had a lot of buzz and had a solid roster of interesting characters.
I got back into the house late that night – I was sunburnt, tired and a little dizzy so I took a nap. When I rose the next morning I fired up the old PC to look around on the interwebs and turns out that Strikeforce were officially owned by Zuffa, LLC, the parent company to the UFC.
It’s been almost two years since that day and the San Jose-based organization has had a slow and painful death. Thankfully, it receives the lethal injection on January 12 that, in ironically fitting fashion is an event that is a shadow of its former self after being riddled with injuries.
Originally keyed as ‘Strikeforce: Champions’ with the lure of Gilbert Melendez, Luke Rockhold & Nate Marquardt defending their crowns but with lingering damage from the Strikeforce kings forced them to step aside.
“With all of the changes, it kind of sucked that Strikeforce fans don’t get to have the send-off to Luke Rockhold and Gilbert Melendez, but those guys had injuries that didn’t heal up in time,” Daniel Cormier, Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix winner said “The card is going to go on, which is great. It is still a very very good card. Strikeforce did a good job of putting everybody on there that is left. [Nate] Marquardt, myself, Tarec Saffeidine, Josh Barnett, Gegard Mousasi, Mike Kyle, Ronaldo Souza, Pat Healy and they just did a great job of putting everybody they had left on the card. They have given the people one last blow out card, but to call it “Champions” wouldn’t be fair, because it’s not that anymore.”
The American Kickboxing Academy’s wrestling coach was expected to headline alongside two-time UFC titlist Frank Mir last November but that event fell to pieces due to that dreaded injury bug, forcing the event to be cancelled. Instead of facing a top-ten 265-pound fighter he will instead meet Dion Staring, a face some of you may remember from his 2009 fight with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira before he joined the UFC ranks.
“You’ve just got to be professional. My job is to be a professional fighter, whether it be Josh Barnett, Dion Staring, Frank Mir, Junior dos Santos it doesn’t matter who it is. I’ve got to take a professional approach and be prepared for those guys, because we’re all big guys and when we go in that cage those guys are going to try and knock your head off. I think you just have to be very professional in your approach and treat everybody as if they’re number one in the world.”
It’s hard not to look ahead if you’re Dan Cormier right now – You are at your physical peak as an athlete, you have Olympic calibre wrestling and literally, you’re showing improvements in leaps and bounds each time you compete and you’re about to join the UFC roster.
Despite being a top-five heavyweight the championship, at least at this point isn’t on the table as his friend and training partner Cain Velasquez just wrestled the ten-pounds of championship gold away from Junior dos Santos last week and it seems the UFC doesn’t have a fat enough wallet to incentivise that match for the pair of star athletes.
“No, I’ve never said that[we would fight]. We’ve both gone on record saying that we don’t want to fight. That’s why the 205lbs talk is even alive; if going down a weight division was an option, I would much rather do that than step into a cage with Cain. Not only because he’s a teammate, but because of how he welcomed me. I came into his gym and he was a top-10 guy in the world. So, as a two time Olympian with athletic ability, the odds of me doing well in this sport were pretty high. I was in his weight class and he never treated me any different. Most guys would actually shy away from that person; Cain did nothing but help me and because of that I don’t want to raise a hand and beat him in a fight or fight him in a fight.”
The Olympian’s bucket list is a large one. In an ideal world, the first to knock off that list is his former scheduled dance partner, Frank Mir and then he has his eyes locked on the unstoppable wrecking machine 60-pounds south, Jon Jones.
“Yeah, that’s my ideal plan. Dana [White] also said that I may get a chance at Jon Jones at 205lbs and if that’s the case, his fight isn’t until April
and I would fight hopefully in April and then have six months or so to actually get my weight down to the 205lbs division. It would take a lot of time, but as of right now, yeah I want Frank [Mir] in April. That’s the fight that was scheduled for November and I think it would be great to fight at the HP in San Jose.”
Making it down to meet Jones at light-heavyweight would be the real task. The unbeaten fighter was the odds-on favorite to win a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing – The team captain was looking to get down to 211-pounds but in the process his kidneys failed, subsequently ending his Olympic dreams and his amateur career.
“I would have to really diet down to a comfortable weight before I start to take off those last 10-15lbs. Also take advantage of the resources I have now, the ability to hire someone to come in here and cook my meals; the ability to hire a nutritionist. A guy to help me get my weight down, a guy like Mike Dolce, you know a guy who could come in and help me with my meals, help me with my diet and help me with the weight cut. I’d just follow it to a “T”, knowing the importance of actually being in the fight that’s set out in front of me.”
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