Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier had one of the most intense and heated rivalries in UFC history. They fought twice for the light heavyweight title, with Jones winning both times by decision and knockout, respectively. However, their feud was more than just a sporting competition. It was a clash of egos, values, and personalities that transcended the octagon.
Jones was the young prodigy who rose to fame quickly and became the youngest champion in UFC history at the age of 23. He was also a controversial figure who faced several legal troubles and drug scandals that threatened his career and reputation.
Cormier was a veteran wrestler who achieved success in both light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. He is now also a respected commentator and analyst who represents the sport with professionalism and integrity. Cormier retired from MMA in 2020 after losing his trilogy fight with Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight belt. Jones announced his move up to heavyweight in 2021 and became the champion by defeating Ciryl Gane at UFC 285.
In this article, we will look back at this epic rivalry between two of the greatest UFC fighters of all time.
The Beginning of the Rivalry
The rivalry between Jones and Cormier started in 2010, when they first met at the UFC 121 event in Anaheim, California. The meeting was just five months before Jones became the UFC light heavyweight champion, and Cormier was a heavyweight fighter competing in Strikeforce. They had a brief exchange of words backstage, where Jones told Cormier that he could take him down.
Jones reflected on the first time they met in an interview with Ariel Helwani:
“The whole story behind me and him is just so silly. I met him, and I came up to him with a big smile on my face. He’s another black guy in the sport, and I felt the need to say hello to him, and I was just like ‘hey man, I hear you’re a great wrestler’ and all this stuff, and he’s like ‘Yeah, yeah, you don’t know who I am?’ I’m like ‘No I don’t know who you are, but my coaches were telling me that you wrestle on the Olympic level.’ And I was like ‘I bet you that I could take you down.’
“It was my way of trying to develop a new friendship, and he just took it so seriously, and he was just so offended that I didn’t know who he was, and from that moment on he decided that there was a beef between us. I was just trying to reach out to him at that moment, and he just decided that there wouldn’t be a friendship between us.
“It’s cool by me. If this guy has some kind of personal vendetta or chose to have a beef with me it’s fine. It just kind of sucks because both of us being African-American guys in the sport I think we should get along and respect each other, but that’s not the case.”
Cormier took offense to this remark and made his feelings known in an interview with ESPN at a later date:
“I didn’t expect Jon Jones to know who I was as an Olympian. I don’t expect Jon Jones to know any wrestlers. He was the guy that was coming up to be the UFC champion. What I said was, ‘How do you break the ice by insulting someone?’ That’s the only problem I had. It was the first time he and I ever interacted. He walked up to me, a very tall individual. He looked down on me and started to make derogatory comments towards me, talking about how he could take me down easy and stuff…You don’t even know who I am, guy!”
The seeds of animosity were planted.
In 2014, two years after winning the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament, Cormier was now in the UFC and had decided to drop down to light heavyweight after his friend and teammate Cain Velasquez became the heavyweight champion. He made his UFC debut in 2013 and quickly rose up the ranks with impressive wins over Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, and Dan Henderson. He also became a frequent critic of Jones’s behavior outside the cage, calling him a fake and a hypocrite.
Meanwhile, Jones continued to dominate the light heavyweight division with title defenses over Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen, Lyoto Machida, and Alexander Gustafsson. He also faced several controversies involving DUI arrests, cocaine use, and hit-and-run incidents. He often clashed with Cormier on social media and in interviews, mocking his physique and skills.
The stage was set for their first encounter at UFC 178 in September 2014. However, Jones suffered a leg injury in training and had to pull out of the fight. The fight was rescheduled for January 2015 at UFC 182.
Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier I
After months of trash talk and physical altercations, Jones and Cormier finally met inside the octagon at UFC 182 on January 3, 2015. The fight was a highly anticipated clash of styles and personalities, with Jones being the long-reigning champion who relied on his reach, creativity, and athleticism, and Cormier being the undefeated challenger who used his wrestling, pressure, and power.
The fight lived up to the hype as both fighters engaged in a back-and-forth battle that lasted five rounds. Jones showcased his improved wrestling by taking down Cormier several times, while Cormier landed some heavy punches and elbows in close range. Jones also used his signature oblique kicks to keep Cormier at bay and damage his legs.
After 25 minutes of action, Jones was declared the winner by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46), retaining his title for the eighth time. According to UFC Stats, Jones outstruck Cormier 126 to 78 in significant strikes and 92 to 58 in total strikes. He also scored three takedowns out of five attempts, while Cormier only managed one out of eight.
The fight was not only a technical display of mixed martial arts skills but also an emotional war of words. Jones taunted Cormier throughout the fight by mocking his gestures and talking trash. After the final horn sounded, Jones celebrated by making a gesture at Cormier’s corner. In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, Jones said he did not respect Cormier as a person or a fighter and called him an “asshole”. He also apologized to the fans for being “classless” but said he felt justified because of what Cormier had said about him before the fight.
Cormier was visibly distraught after losing his first professional MMA fight. He admitted that Jones was better than him that night but vowed to come back stronger. He also said he still hated Jones and hoped they would meet again someday.
The first fight between Jones and Cormier was not only a thrilling contest but also a defining moment in their rivalry. It cemented Jones’s status as one of the greatest fighters of all time and showed his ability to overcome adversity. It also exposed Cormier’s weaknesses and challenged his confidence. However, it did not settle their feud as both fighters continued to harbor resentment towards each other.
Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier II
The rematch between Jones and Cormier was originally scheduled for UFC 197 in April 2016, but Cormier had to withdraw due to a foot injury. Jones faced Ovince Saint Preux instead and won the interim light heavyweight title by unanimous decision. The fight was then rescheduled for UFC 200 in July 2016, but Jones was pulled out three days before the event after testing positive for banned substances. Cormier fought Anderson Silva on short notice and won by unanimous decision.
Jones was suspended for one year by USADA and stripped of his interim title. He returned to face Cormier at UFC 214 on July 29, 2017, at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. This time around, ‘DC’ was the light heavyweight champion, and ‘Bones’ was the challenger.
The second fight was more competitive than the first one as both fighters exchanged strikes and takedowns throughout the first two rounds. Cormier seemed to have an edge in boxing and clinch work, while Jones used his kicks and elbows more effectively. In the third round, Jones landed a devastating head kick that dropped Cormier and followed up with a barrage of punches on the ground until referee John McCarthy stopped the fight at 3:01.
Jones reclaimed his title by knockout and became the first fighter to finish Cormier in MMA. He also showed respect to his rival after the fight by praising his skills and character. He said he wanted to be a better person because of Cormier.
However, their rivalry took another twist when it was revealed that Jones tested positive for turinabol, an anabolic steroid, before the fight. The result was overturned to a no-contest and Jones was stripped of his title again. He faced another suspension from USADA that lasted until October 2018.
Cormier regained his title by default and went on to become a two-division champion by defeating Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight belt at UFC 226 in July 2018. He defended his title in both weight classes before losing to Miocic at UFC 241 in August 2019 and UFC 252 in August 2020.
The second fight between Jones and Cormier was not only a controversial outcome but also a missed opportunity for both fighters. It could have been a chance for Jones to redeem himself from his past mistakes or for Cormier to avenge his loss. Instead, it left both fighters with more questions than answers.
Jones vs. Cormier rivalry aftermath
Jones and Cormier still have a complicated relationship that is marked by both respect and criticism. On one hand, Jones has attempted to bury the hatchet with Cormier and praised his skills and character.
“I’m not competing against Daniel Cormier,” Jones told Sports Illustrated in 2023. “I’ve already beat him twice. I’m really happy for Daniel Cormier. I love what he’s done in his life with his wrestling and broadcasting. I think it’s awesome when a fighter can retire and use his voice and intelligence to do something that he loves, so I’ve got nothing but respect for Daniel Cormier.”
He also said he wanted to be a better person because of Cormier after their second fight. On the other hand, Cormier refuses to acknowledge Jones as the greatest of all time (GOAT) because of his history of failed drug tests. He also said he still hated Jones after their first fight.
“I think it’s hard to argue the greatest of all time when Jones has now gone up to heavyweight and won the championship, because of what he did at light-heavyweight,” Cormier explained. “This always puts me in a tough position, right, because I will always say guys that have bad things attached to their name should not be held on high.
Cormier elaborated: “I think especially with the drugs and the steroid failures and those types of things. I think when you have those things, it’s hard to call you the greatest of all time,” he exclaimed. “I don’t, [in my opinion], believe he should be no.1 pound-for-pound. I think Alexander Volkanovski should still stay there.
But this makes it hard for me right? Because then I come off as a bit bitter when in reality I’m not bitter. I’ve always took this stance and I’m staying with it.”
Their rivalry has also been influenced by other factors such as their careers, their fans, and their peers. For example, Cormier retired from MMA in 2020 after losing his trilogy fight with Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight belt. Jones announced his move up to heavyweight in 2021 and became the champion by defeating Ciryl Gane at UFC 285. Some fans and analysts have speculated that a third fight between Jones and Cormier could happen at heavyweight, but both fighters have denied any interest in that scenario.
Another example is Henry Cejudo, a former two-weight UFC champion who wants to mediate between Jones and Cormier. He said he respects both fighters and believes they have a lot in common. He also said they will always remember each other’s name until they die.
In 2023, following Jon Jones’ successful heavyweight debut in which he submitted Ciryl Gane in the first round to become the new heavyweight champion, the rivalry became the center of attention again. Cormier was commentating on Jones’ fight alongside Joe Rogan and Jon Anik on the broadcast. After the event, the UFC released video footage showing the booth’s reaction to Jones’ win.
Jones criticized Cormier’s reaction, tweeting, “My man couldn’t even pretend to smile, it was pretty funny. Asking what happened, an experienced former champion and analyst suddenly not being able to identify a guillotine [choke].”
In conclusion, Jones and Cormier have one of the most intense and heated rivalries in UFC history that is not likely to end anytime soon. They have shown respect or criticism towards each other depending on their mood, situation, and perspective. They have also influenced each other’s careers, personalities, and legacies in MMA.