Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier really, really dislike one another.
The UFC 182 conference call, if devoid of the fireworks of this summer’s presser-turned-brawl, highlighted the hatred between the odd couple in begrudging praise and passive-aggressive backhanded compliments.
Cormier didn’t say he would spit in Jones’s face. Jones didn’t say he would kill Cormier. They didn’t have to. You just knew. Such declarations of hatred, redundant by this point, came in the form of vibe, tone, and, one imagines from anyone watching, body language.
Breitbart Sports inquired of the lanky light-heavyweight champion and the stocky wrestler if, despite disliking the opposition as a person, they like anything about their respective adversaries as fighters.
“I like a lot of his abilities,” Cormier concedes. “I like his creativeness inside of the octagon, confidence in himself, and anytime a person wins as many fights he has in a row they deserve a level of respect. At the level that he’s won, it’s hard not to almost admire that to a degree.”
Almost admire? To a degree? Level of respect? Nobody’s been able to truly beat Jon Jones in 21 bouts—not Rashad Evans, not Lyoto Machida, not Alexander Gustafsson—and Daniel Cormier “almost” admires it “to a degree.”
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that there’s anything that I like about him,” Jon Jones told Breitbart Sports on the conference call. “I do respect that he’s able to use his frame so successfully, being a short guy and a thicker guy. You look at him and his body type doesn’t scream ‘athlete.’ But he’s been able to do some amazing things in the sport of wrestling and in his MMA career. So, he can be somewhat of an inspiration for people who are built like him.”
Put another way, Jon Jones thinks his opponent, an Olympian undefeated in fifteen mixed-martial-arts matches, would make a great motivational speaker at a fat farm. He’s an inspiration, but only “somewhat,” and only “for people who are built like him,” a vague category that nevertheless inspires specific images of Newman from Seinfeld, Meatloaf, Esther Rolle, Haystacks Calhoun, Eric Cartman, William Howard Taft, Falstaff, Lard Ass from Stand by Me, and, depending on whether you agree with Peter Singer that animals are people too, Garfield.
They hate each other. But they need each other. One’s legacy isn’t the same without the other. UFC 182 features the most anticipated fight in the light heavyweight division’s history. Consider that when Randy Couture beat Chuck Liddell, his record showed five losses and his opponent’s one. Neither Jon Jones nor Daniel Cormier truly knows defeat in 36 combined fights.
And neither wants to know it.
“I have not even thought about that for a second,” Cormier confesses about losing. “I won’t accept that as my reality.” Jones, in this if nothing else, concurs: “I focus on victory in everything that I do.”
But come Saturday night, someone leaves a loser. That’s how Las Vegas stories always end.