What started off as a brawl in the middle of the MGM Grand lobby in August has culminated into one of the most anticipated championship matches of all-time at UFC 182.
Now five months later, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones and number one contender Daniel “DC” Cormier have so much built up animosity between them, they couldn’t even do a traditional faceoff at their weigh-in Friday.
Saturday night at a sold out MGM Grand Garden Arena at UFC 182, both Jones and Cormier get to show the world who is the best in the 205 lb. weight division.
Jones (20-1) might already be the greatest mixed martial artist ever. If he’s not, he’s closing in on it.
At 23 years old, he became the youngest champion in UFC history in 2011. Should he defeat Cormier (15-0), he will have successfully defended his title eight times, just two shy of Anderson Silva’s all-time record (10) at 185 pounds.
“The key to the fight for me is just to go out there and do what I’ve always done; to love the sport, to enjoy the moment, to have fun, to realize what a gift it is to be able to be out there in front of all these people – just to be myself: confident, young, fast, athletic, enjoying it and let everything take care of itself. I’ve done everything I can to win the fight. I’ve trained. My cardio is great. My tactics are great. My playbook is rehearsed,” said Jones during a recent media conference call.
“And now I’m going to go out there and do what I’ve always done. If I just go out there and do what I’ve always done – have fun, play the game that I really do love, I’ll be all right,” Jones added
While Jones looks to add yet another spectacular chapter to his legacy, Cormier is priming himself to be the man who beat the man.
There is a void in Cormier’s career that he readily admits.
Cormier was an NCAA All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State, but didn’t win an individual title. He made the U.S. Olympic freestyle wrestling team in 2004 and 2008, and served as the captain in Beijing, but he failed to medal.
Saturday night, Cormier plans doing what he always does in an athletic competition, which is to play to win. The fact that it’s the man he dislikes the most who will be opposite of him has no bearing.
“Everything I’ve done, all the sacrifices I’ve made and the disappointments I’ve had to endure have been to get me to this point where I can step in there and know that I’m going to leave with that title,” Cormier said. “That’s what this is all about.”
The best part about this fight is the intangibles. You have the Olympic-level wrestler who has never quite won it all at the utmost and highest level, getting the chance of a lifetime to dethrone arguably the greatest fighter of all time. The animosity between the two sends things over the top.
Once the cage door closes, though, I see Jones being Jones and showing everyone why he’s on pace to be the “Greatest UFC Fighter of All-Time.” Jones’ all-around skill set and his ability to shine when the spotlight is on will be on full display.
I predict at the end of UFC 182, UFC Octagon announcer Bruce Buffer will proclaim, “…and still the Undisputed UFC Light Heavyweight Champion of World, Jon “Bones” Jones.”
Kendrick Johnson writes for a daily newspaper and is an independent print journalist and sports television reporter who has covered the NBA Finals, NFL, NCAA football, MLB, NHL, championship boxing and UFC Fights. He’s done numerous one on one interviews with some of the biggest names and personalities in sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kendrickjohnso