Daniel Cormier has competed at the highest level through his career. High school wrestling in Louisiana. College wrestling at Oklahoma State. Olympic wrestling for the U.S. twice.
Now, he’s one of the best mixed martial arts fighters in the world.
Saturday, Cormier will fight in the co-main event of UFC 166. Undefeated and ranked third in the heavyweight division, Cormier could earn a title shot with a victory against Roy Nelson.
An MMA title might help erase the disappointment of the 2008 Olympics, when Cormier had to withdraw from the competition. He developed a serious kidney problem, the result of weight cutting gone terribly wrong.
The ’08 Olympics was the worst moment in my athletic life. The disappointment was horrible. The disappointment of not competing. But also the disappointment of all the work we’d put in in that four years. My coaches. My family. My friends.
The year I had leading into the Olympics, I had a great year. I was ranked really high in the world, coming off my best season ever. And for it to happen the way it did in Beijing was really hard.
It was difficult to get over.
It took a year and a half before I could actually start training. It was my kidneys. Now everything’s fine. Once I got moving forward again, I kind of never looked back. I set my sights on a new goal.
MMA and me, we just kind of fit.
A lot of guys that we have in this sport, because it’s so new, they never competed at the highest levels. They’re not competing in front of tens of thousands of people like we did in wrestling. Having to travel the world in wrestling to places like Russia or ... Siberia when it’s negative 30 degrees, they hate us. That prepared you for this competition.
Life prepared me for this.
There’s been a lot of missed opportunities, and now, there aren’t any more. Now ... things have just been good consistently.
Opportunity is not good until you cash in on it.
The weirdest thing is going to the fight and people running behind you and grabbing on you. That’s weird. We never really got that in wrestling. You just don’t get it, even at the highest levels.
Well, in Russia, you get it. I think they actually ask for pictures in Russia just because you’re black. They don’t see many black people. You’re a novelty.
What happened in my life that made me so lucky that I can actually live like this?
People don’t go to work at 12 o’clock and are done at 2 and then get to go home and sleep for four hours, then go back at 6. It doesn’t happen. I don’t know what happened for me. Maybe it’s because I work hard. If I’m committed to something, I work hard to try and attain the goals, but it’s been great.
I’m just lucky, man.
Hopefully, I’m a UFC champion. That’s my goal. My goal is to be the best fighter in the world at my weight division.
I’ve set a lot of small goals as I’ve moved forward, and I’ve hit every one of them. Then, I set another goal. The goals have to keep going. That’s what I train for — I train to reach goals, so I have to put something else out there.
I want to get back to coaching wrestling. I love that sport. Wrestling is what made me.
I soured on the sport because I had some issues. When you have bad experiences, you kind of hide from things. You go into a shell. You don’t know if the world’s going to embrace you or if your world has changed around you. Once I opened myself up to everybody, things hadn’t changed very much.
Teaching it to the next generation and just being involved ... I love it.