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SportsColumnistsMark La Monica

Amid the trash talk, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier will fight at UFC 182

UFC 182: Bad blood - Jones vs. Cormier

Yes, they brawled last summer.

And, hooray, they continued to talk trash later that day -- evidenced by "leaked" footage of Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier verbally ripping each other while the ESPN microphones were on and the cameras were rolling but not broadcasting to the world.

And, woohoo, Jones and Cormier continued their verbal displays of dislike after a news event on New Year's Day in Las Vegas, captured on the cellphone camera of former UFC fighter Tyson Griffin.

The totality of Jones vs. Cormier so far has created fantastic theater for the real Jones vs. Cormier bout on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for UFC 182.

"Them using that to promote fights, it doesn't surprise me," Jones said on a conference call Monday. "I'm just going to go with it. It's what I said, they're my quotes and I'll live with it."

Cormier agreed.

"It's got people excited," said Cormier, a two-time Olympic wrestler. "People want to watch us fight. And that's a big deal."

We've seen these types of pre-fight beefs before. They get dissected into what's real and what's staged to drum up interest in the fight and, ultimately, boost pay-per-view buys and ratings. Most often, these beefs end with a hug in the middle of the octagon and the word "respect" used in every sentence afterward.

Somewhere in between the name-calling and the post-fight interviews, there's this: the actual fight. You know, the one where light heavyweight champion Jones seeks an eighth straight successful defense of that title against the undefeated Cormier.

Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormer: Pick the winner

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This fight had plenty of appeal before the antics, something that shouldn't get lost amid all the liking on Instagram and retweeting on Twitter of heated exchanges between the two. Jones and Cormier are a combined 35-1 in MMA, with that one loss being a disqualification of Jones for an illegal elbow in a fight that should have been stopped by the referee five or six strikes earlier.

That's what should be discussed here: the competition between two elite fighters. In Jones (20-1), there's the potential to be the greatest ever in his sport -- a true artist of MMA, someone who does things in the cage others can't. In Cormier (15-0), there's that grinding mentality of a wrestler who continues to develop his all-around game and knock off some of the biggest names in the sport.

"I love the fact that people assume that if Daniel takes me down he wins the fight," Jones said. "I love how people assume that he needs to get close to me and then I'm suddenly at some type of a disadvantage. Honestly, man, I'm so secure in my abilities as a fighter, in the clinch, dirty boxing, my jiujitsu, my top game, my bottom game, about my wrestling."

Look beyond the latest incendiary headline about Jones vs. Cormier and you'll find a terrific opportunity to watch a mixed martial arts bout between top fighters. Sometimes, the discourse can be about the fight itself, not just the theatrics. Turkey without stuffing is still turkey, and it tastes good. Scrape the talk into the trash can.

"Before, it was all we could do to try and get to each other because we were so far away from the fight," Cormier said Monday. "The fight's only six days [away] now. There's no point to that anymore. What's it going to do? All that arguing, all the yelling, all the name calling - it motivated me through my training."

Jones agreed.

"The fight is here," he said. "There's nothing that could be said or anything that - to change the outcome of this fight. The work is done. The camp is over. And for me to sit here and be unprofessional and try to insult him and come at him and get in this bickering mess to sell a few more pay-per-views is just - I don't need to. I don't need it. The fight's going to sell."

Of course, then Thursday's kerfuffle happened. And then we have another staredown Friday evening at weigh-ins. There's also an actual mixed martial arts fight scheduled for Saturday, too.

New York Sports