One of the many, many things to like about Daniel Cormier is his simple desire to scrap.
We saw this inclination in February after Rashad Evans was forced out of their scheduled UFC 170 fight with an injury and Cormier publicly cajoled matchmakers into finding him someone, anyone else to put his fists on instead of scratching him from the card.
Eventually, they dredged up Patrick Cummins, but more on that in a minute.
Cormier’s fight-early, fight-often policy was on display again Wednesday, as Bleacher Report’s Jeremy Botter reported the fight company is targeting a bout for him against former Strikeforce champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante at UFC 175.
Social media critics have jumped all over it, casting it as a step back for the former Olympic wrestling team captain, who is now 3-0 in the UFC and 14-0 overall.
Assuming the fight comes together, though, Cormier’s message is clear: Confronted by a reality where both Glover Teixeira and Alexander Gustafsson are ahead of him in the light heavyweight pecking order, he’d rather stay busy and paid than wait for the contender carousel to complete its year-long turn.
Taking on a backsliding, but still-dangerous hitter like Feijao is a risky move for a guy who’s already basically assured a future shot at the 205-pound title. However, it’s also very easy to admire.
It speaks to the man’s work ethic and a core belief in himself that he’s among the best light heavyweights in the world. Perhaps to him it doesn’t matter who he fights, or when, since he thinks he’s going to beat them all anyway.
Also, he doesn’t have all day to wait.
Cormier turned 35 years old a week ago and—as talented as he is—he’s obviously working with a limited window in which to ply his trade. He commands somewhere in the neighborhood of $160,000 to fight for the UFC—MMA Junkie reported that his payout for blistering Cummins was $80,000 to show and that much again to win—and those two factors combined likely make the equation very simple for him.
He could either sit at home watching the clock tick or roll the dice and stand to perhaps double his yearly salary to date.
In addition, there is the small matter of the Cummins fight, which ultimately failed to tell spectators much we didn’t already know about Cormier.
It was sweet confirmation to see him look fit and capable at 205 pounds, but after the UFC did its best to prop the former barista up as a legit threat, the end result bordered on depressing and did little to satisfy our curiosity about how high Cormier might fly.
It’s possible the competitor in Cormier secretly left UFC 170 feeling much the same way.
He’d trained for Evans and expected to get a stiff test from a perennial contender and former champion. Instead, he got an unsatisfying gimme fight against a talented but woefully unprepared kid.
It was easy money, but the experience may not have been particularly instructive for him in what to expect from his new life at light heavyweight.
To that end, Cavalcante would be a better way to scratch the itch.
The 33-year-old Brazilian got back into the win column during his last UFC fight, a first-round stoppage over Igor Pokrajac last November. He’s been up and down since winning the Strikeforce title in August of 2010, but would be a worthy opponent and—if nothing else—a far more interesting litmus test than Cummins ever could have been.
At this point, it would be easy for Cormier to make some wise investments with his $160,000 and cool his heels until the Jon Jones-Teixeira-Gustafsson meat grinder spits out a winner for him to face near the end of the year.
It's commendable—if a little bit scary—that he’s probably going to do the opposite.
You know what they say about great opportunity, though. It all comes up rosy for Cormier if he dispatches Feijao with the same ease as previous opponents like Cummins, Roy Nelson and Frank Mir.
If the unthinkable happens and he loses, however, it would constitute a full-scale disaster for a guy who has just as little time to waste rebuilding his image as waiting on the sideline.
The bottom line is that Cormier is one of the more exciting prospects to grace the 205-pound division in some time. Fans want to see him fight and he looks intent on granting our wish. In a sport that so often revels in the fearlessness of guys like Nick Diaz and gameness of dudes like Donald Cerrone, Cormier’s confidence deserves its due too.
I kind of love it.
I just hope it works out for him.