The biggest fight in UFC history comes at the best time for the promotion.
Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier takes on Jon Jones, whose two brothers compete in the NFL, for the UFC light-heavyweight championship on Saturday, January 3, in Las Vegas. After a 2014 overflowing with cancelled cards, dud main events, and sidelined superstars, Dana White seeks to right the Goodship UFC with what appears on paper as the greatest matchup in the history of the young sport. A fruitful fight at the box office following a fallow period appears the perfect way to ring in the new year—and say a grateful goodbye to the old, unkind one.
The UFC shared with Breitbart Sports a sneak preview of the appropriately titled “Bad Blood: Jones vs. Cormier,” the UFC 182 preview which premieres Sunday on Fox Sports 1 at 9 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Pacific. The 22-minute film documents two men who hate each other, which should be good for 700,000 or so men loving this fight enough to fork over $49.95 to their cable companies this Saturday night.
The main event of UFC 182 contains all the ingredients of a superfight. The combatants share amazing athleticism, essentially undefeated records, and, most importantly, animosity. The challenger threatened to spit in the champion’s face. The champion threatened to kill the challenger. When the pair met a press-conference dais this summer, they naturally fought there.
The contempt started with an innocuous comment, by Jones’s account, that, by Cormier’s telling, came off as passive-aggressive. “You look like a wrestler,” Jon Jones commented upon meeting the stocky Daniel Cormier.
“I’m the best wrestler in the sport,” a disrespected Cormier insists. Jones laughs off the comment as benign small-talk. “He made things personal,” Jones insists. “He found a way to create drama.”
And Jones found a way to inflate that drama. Noting Cormier’s penchant for citing his Olympic credentials but dearth of actual hardware from the games, a laughing Jones asked late-night funnyman Jimmy Kimmel, “What do you get when you take fourth?”
Cormier, for his part, believes that falling short of an NCAA wrestling title and the Olympic platform may have occurred for a reason that January 3 will make clear. The confident wrestler with excellent standup thinks winning UFC gold stands as his true destiny.
He trains not only with UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, but with Khadzhimurat Gatsalov, the man who bested him at the 2004 Olympics, as preparation to vanquish Jones.
“I’m consumed by him in a way that people don’t understand,” Cormier admits. “I go to bed thinking about it. I wake up thinking about it.”
Jones counters with his own candor. “Is Daniel Cormier in my head?” Jones asks. “Yeah, he is in my head.”
A matchup fought a million times inside the heads of mixed-martial-arts enthusiasts finally takes place in an actual cage this Saturday night. Fans find out then if the fight beats the hype, and what fighter finally gets beaten.