The champ-champ is now just “champ.”
Daniel Cormier was due to be stripped of his UFC light heavyweight belt as soon as round one of Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson II got underway in tomorrow night’s UFC 232 main event. Instead of being stripped, Cormier has opted to relinquish the title... aka “lose the belt a day early.”
“Today I am going to relinquish the UFC light heavyweight title,” Cormier said in a statement to ESPN. “I am not going to be stripped of the belt that I’ve defended with my all for three and a half years. Being stripped of a title suggests you’ve done something wrong, and I haven’t.
“I’d rather walk away this way, with my head held high as it always has been, than have the history books say I was stripped. I’ve defended this title this year. I was approached with the idea of fighting at heavyweight, so I took it. I fought three times in 2018. No champion has been more active than me. I am the fighter of the year. My story and my legacy will not include me being stripped of a title. They can have it.”
Cormier became the first simultaneous light heavyweight and heavyweight champion in UFC history, courtesy of his KO of Stipe Miocic at UFC 226. He would defend his heavyweight title on fairly short notice against Derrick Lewis at UFC 230, winning by submission. Cormier won the vacant LHW strap when he beat Anthony Johnson in 2015 at UFC 187, lost it to Jones at UFC 214, but regained it when Jones tested positive for turinabol and his KO loss became a no contest. His final defense at 205 lbs was a second-round TKO of Volkan Oezdemir.
Cormier intends to retire next year, with a target date of March 2019, when he’ll turn 40 years old. While he’s desired a big money fight with Brock Lesnar, there’s been no meaningful update on if/when it will happen, and thus we don’t really know who Cormier’s next (and possibly final) opponent will be.