As the calendar rushes toward September, Daniel Cormier’s professional career is soon to reach the 10-year milestone. It has, by any measure, been an extraordinary decade. He has a career win percentage over .900, he has captured two UFC championships, won a Strikeforce Grand Prix, and holds victories over all-timers including Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson and Stipe Miocic. In addition, he has been a wonderful representative of a sport that does not always put its best foot forward.
No one is excited to see Cormier hang up his gloves for good. In fact, it will be a rather somber day. But his plan was always to retire by his 40th birthday, so there is some cruel irony that in his first post-40 bout, he was knocked out by Miocic in their rematch. The MMA gods do not play.
In the aftermath of the loss, Cormier signaled that he would take the time to weigh his decision with his family, and in the absence of emotion. That will be difficult. UFC president Dana White has already placed his thumb on the scale, publicly voicing an interest in running back the rivalry one more time to complete a trilogy. There’s potentially millions of dollars at stake in the decision. The possibility of one more score has tripped up too many to count.
Still, this is why I think he should and will retire:
- His legacy is written — Cormier was a blue-chip prospect when he entered the sport in 2009, then went on to accomplish everything that was expected of him and then some. He has a brilliant record, multiple championships, wins over a Who’s Who of greats, and the respect of the industry.
- He has nothing more to prove — Facing Miocic one more time to settle the score is essentially a vanity play. Cormier has already beaten him once, so it’s not as if he has to prove to himself or anyone else that he’s capable of doing so. We’ve seen it happen. He also dominated most of the second fight, further illustrating his excellence before Miocic countered with a few tremendous adjustments. In the context of his career, a rivalry winner isn’t necessary or even all that important. No one thinks any differently of Randy Couture or Chuck Liddell based upon their last fight. Their body of work goes far beyond a trilogy. The same holds true for DC.
- There’s a law of diminishing returns — While Cormier started his MMA career late and doesn’t have as much octagon wear and tear on him as some others his age, he is still 40 years old. Science has helped athletes to expand their peaks and to maintain optimum fitness longer than ever, but there is not a single sport on earth where he would be considered a young man. As great as he still is, his best days are behind him. Admittedly, that’s a bitter pill to swallow, but Cormier is an intelligent man, and he’s seen the declines of many former greats up close and likely won’t allow himself to come to that. He can still compete at a high level, but his mission has always been to be the very best. At his age, and with all he has going on, how long can he realistically stay there?
- It goes against his previously stated rationale — It was about 18 months ago when Cormier first gave his career deadline, only to go against it. There is a lesson to be learned there, one he will no doubt absorb. Given that, it’s hard to see him contradict another piece of advice he gave himself, to ignore the perfect ending. It doesn’t have to be about getting one last bit of revenge or going out on a victory. It just has to be right to him. He has emphasized watching his children grow and offering them the spotlight that he has held so long. Extending his career pushes that back further, something he may have a hard time doing.
Cormier is a legend, and has earned the right to whatever future he wants. If he wants to fight again, it’s perfectly understandable. It is hard to walk away from something you love. But he created this plan to walk away at 40, only to see it backfire, so it’s hard to imagine he’s going to tempt fate again. I think he will retire. Whatever he decides, here’s hoping for a positive outcome.
First off Mike, I want to start by saying that this game is rigged from the jump. Putting a writer of your caliber up against a barely literate Neanderthal like myself is almost as big of a mismatch as Jon Jones vs. whatever dead man his next opponent is. That being said, things could be worse for me because you may have the flowery writing, but I, sir, have all the facts. And the facts are that not only will Daniel Cormier mount up for one last ride, but he absolutely needs to do so. Consider this thorough rebuttal of all your well-reasoned points.
- His legacy is not complete – This may be hard to stomach, but DC’s legacy took a hit at UFC 241. Had he retired without the rematch, DC probably goes down as one of the five greatest fighters ever, and has an outside claim to Heavyweight GOAT status (though that claim would largely center around hypotheticals where Cain Velasquez doesn’t exist as a teammate). But losing to Stipe immediately removes him from the HW GOAT talk and is a pretty healthy blow to his top-5 ever case as well. But if he comes back and reclaims the title, all of that is back on the table.
- He has something to prove . . . to himself – Like it or not, this is a what have you done for me lately kind of sport. In the grand scheme of things, DC’s legacy is secure but Miocic has the upper hand now. And that has to burn for a competitor the likes of Cormier, who was also dusting up Miocic for the bulk of the fight. With Jon Jones, there is a hard realization to suffer that DC is not the best. But he’s a better fighter than Stipe Miocic and so to lose to him and then hang them up feels unconscionable. If he walks away now, he’s going to wonder about “one more fight” for the rest of his days.
- He may not have much to prove but he has a lot to gain, namely $$$$$ – This is, I think, the point we as fans and media overlook the most. We like to place legacy as the most important thing but when you boil it down, MMA is prizefighting, and DC still has a lot of prizes he can fight for. Cormier isn’t hurting for money but ask anyone with money and they’ll always say they’d like more of it. And DC has a prime opportunity to feather his nest with one final payday, that could end up being the biggest of his career given the surrounding factors.
- He’s not too old . . . yet – It’s tough to argue against DC’s advanced age being suboptimal for continuing Combat sports competition but I’d like to remind you of a man named Yoel Romero. Romero is 42 going on 27 and currently the best middleweight in the world. Yes, yes, Romero is quite possibly an immortal demigod of some kind that ruins attempts to liken him to others, but DC likeWISe possesses world-class athleticism and skills. He’s certainly not at the peak of his powers anymore, but he’s not that far off, and that’s still good enough to win back the title. If he waits around, it won’t be. DC needs to strike while the iron is hot. And finally . . .
- It’s too damn fun for him not to do it – Perhaps this one is more WISh-fulfillment than reasoning but more so than any other, the heavyweight division has been defined by trilogy, and we finally have another great one to add to the pantheon. Love him or hate him (and how could you hate him if you are anyone other than Jon Jones?!?) Daniel Cormier has been one of the must fun fighters to watch in the UFC over 170 pounds, and it’s evident that he matches up in an exciting and interesting way with Stipe. Plus, it would be substantially more meaningful for the fans to get to enjoy the build up of the latest heavyweight trilogy with the added lens of knowing it’s Cormier’s last ride. Retirement tours in sports are often saccharine and obnoxious but DC is one of the few almost universally loved fighters and this would be a true farewell fight, with him near the height of his powers as opposed to normal nostalgia parade.
I totally agree with you: Cormier a legend, and he has earned the right to whatever future he wants. But that future will be better and more satisfying for him if he comes back, regardless of the outcome. Dana White likes to say that as soon as a fighter starts talking about retirement, it’s time for them to hang them up. But that’s the opposite of how it should be for fighters. You regret the things you don’t do far more than the things you do that fail and for all Cormier’s discussion of retirement, he clearly has more left to give, and more that he feels he needs to do. I can’t see him walking off into the sunset just yet, and when he does come back, I’ll be waiting with bells on.