Shoving and shoe throwing. Insults and accusations.
The rivalry between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones produced as many memorable moments as any feud between two fighters in the UFC’s 24-year history, culminating in two title fights.
But Cormier believes the ongoing strife between bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt and ex-teammate TJ Dillashaw tops anything he and Jones experienced.
“It actually makes it worse that they have this backstory, this history of each other being so close,” Cormier said. “It’s going to be terrible, it’s going to be crazy.”
Cormier, who is in New York to cover UFC 217 for Fox Sports, said the rift between himself and Jones didn’t come from any particular moment or past experience.
“Just two guys that never really got to . . . we just were completely different from Day One,” Cormier said. “It just never took off, always just bad.”
That’s not the case for Garbrandt and Dillashaw. After both training with Team Alpha Male, Dillashaw left the team to work with TAM’s former coach, Duane Ludwig, in Denver. Dillashaw later lost his bantamweight title, a belt Garbrandt now holds. Since Dillashaw’s departure, the pair haven’t stopped jawing.
That hate and history, Cormier said, is impossible to replicate.
“The dislike is just so high, I think it’s a massive part of the fight,” Cormier said.
Dillashaw and Garbrandt may have had their shoe-throwing moment Thursday night. After months of teasing a leak of old practice footage featuring the two, Garbrandt posted a grainy video to Instagram that he said shows him knocking down Dillashaw during a sparring session.
“That was horrible last night, wasn’t it?” Cormier said. “Let me tell you something, man, if TJ didn’t dislike Cody before, you can only imagine how he feels about him now. That was nasty.”
Cormier and Jones have fought twice, most recently in July when Jones knocked out Cormier, only to have the title returned to the former Olympic wrestler after Jones tested positive for a performance-enhancer. Both fights were competitive and have left fans clamoring for a trilogy if Jones returns from suspension in a timely matter. If Dillashaw-Garbrandt is to join the ranks of the greatest UFC rivalries, it has to live up to the hype in the cage, Cormier said.
“Rivalries are great, in theory, but if they can’t back it up and can’t fight, it doesn’t really matter,” Cormier said. “So, the skill is the thing that’s going to really draw you to the fight. Jon and I had that, now I believe these guys have it too.”
For all the talk, Cormier believes the bout will deliver.
“It’ll be a good fight. For everything that they are, they’re two of the best fighters in the world,” Cormier said. “Dillashaw I believe has a lot more weapons, but Cody Garbrandt is a beast, man. And he showed in the Dominick Cruz fight that he can fight any way against anybody, so it’s going to be a tough fight.”