Javier Mendez: Daniel Cormier “does not play like a 41 year old man”, could continue to fight if he wanted

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Daniel Cormier has told the world he’s sacrificed enough and UFC 252 is his final step to the octagon. And it could be, unless something else happened.

“He can say, ‘Yeah, I’m done after that,’” Cormier coach Javier Mendez told MMA Fighting. “But you’ve been there and I’ve been there, and [UFC President] Dana [White] throws you a lot of money, sometimes it’s hard to say no. “

That money could be for a fight with Brock Lesnar, should the former heavyweight champion fight again, or a third fight against his avowed rival and current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who has indicated his desire to move on to the heavyweight.

Either way, Mendez said, the work he saw from Cormier at camp for his trilogy against champion Stipe Miocic led him to believe the former two-division champion could continue if he did. wished.

“He’s not playing like a 41-year-old,” Mendez said. “He is in shape. His mind is sharp, his reflexes are sharp. He fights like the best heavyweight there is.

“If you’re playing at this level, who says you should retire?” Only he can decide if he wants to retire. His abilities can tell he can do it longer. I don’t know how many fights he could do, but he certainly can do it now.

Mendez’s confidence isn’t out of place before a fight of this magnitude. Optimism always reigns supreme before the verdict in the cage, and it has always been his job to help Cormier prepare for whatever is to follow. Cormier has already pushed back on retirement plans, so the coach isn’t firmly committed to a particular outcome.

“If you ask me, would Jav want him to retire?” Yes, I would like him to retire after that, ”Mendez said. “I wanted him to retire before that. So from my perspective, I want him to retire, but I don’t know what he wants.

After stopping Miocic at UFC 226 to become the second two-division champion, Cormier targeted a defense of his light heavyweight title – returned to him after drug failure after Jones’ fight in UFC 214 nullified a second victory – and planned to hang up his title. gloves after a fight with Lesnar in March 2019. Then Lesnar re-signed with WWE, he took the rematch with Miocic at UFC 241, and a series of nasty body shots tore his retirement plans apart.

Before that fateful night, Mendez had felt that Cormier had to come out on top. At the time, it only reflected Cormier’s wishes. He changed his mind when the ex-champion decided to continue.

Now, whatever his personal opinion, Mendez agrees with UFC President Dana White, who thinks Cormier could stay a lot longer.

“It’s a question of what he wants to do, and for me, I was against him fighting because he was against fighting,” he said. “As soon as he changes his mind, of course, I’ll be by his side because I know he can do it.

“To my taste, if he retired, I would be very happy. I didn’t particularly care if he was fighting this one or not, but he wants to, so if you care about your fighter, you support him.

After decades of coaching top athletes, Mendez has learned to be flexible. There’s a financial incentive to do that, of course, but as a veteran who routinely ignored his coaches, he understands that it’s often more productive to shape talent, not control it.

Mendez said he sometimes struggles to get Cormier and another unique talent, Khabib Nurmagomedov, to listen to him during fights. But he accepted that they wouldn’t be who they were if they did.

“If you don’t, you’re going to have a lot of surprises,” he says. “If you want to be successful with your guys, and you want your guys to be with you and be happy with you, you better leave them alone. You have to understand who they are. You cannot change them. ”

Cormier didn’t follow the plan in the second fight with Miocic, Mendez said, and Miocic capitalized brilliantly. But the coach is hesitant to say that the solution is to follow orders.

“In all honesty, Stipe caught it with a really good shot,” Mendez said. “He was getting a little tired. He was hit in quick succession, and some people commented, “Oh, he has a weak stomach. Man, if he had a weak stomach he would’ve been let go the first time, because that was one hell of a blow that would knock anyone down. But the number of hits he’s hit DC, there’s no one out there who can take that kind of hit and not get affected over and over again. So the lesson learned was, I don’t know, he got caught by a great photo.

“It’s not like he’s always listening to me and Bob’s instructions – he doesn’t. Maybe the lesson is to listen to your coaches, maybe more? He didn’t do as well. But he also managed to do it his own way. I myself have never listened to my coaches. Never. I did what I had to do. He has a little.

If Cormier presents himself as he did for the first fight, there is a very solid foundation to build on. In each round of the rematch, he led Miocic in headshots, total strikes and big hits. He landed more ranged, melee and ground strikes. The one area he didn’t dominate – shots to the body – ended up being his downfall when Miocic landed 14 in the fourth round.

It was one of the biggest turnarounds in UFC heavyweight history, and an end Cormier refused to accept in a decorated career. If he does manage to secure victory in the trilogy, Mendez believes “DC” will solidify his position as the UFC’s greatest heavyweight of all time. It’s just the end of the storybook that could only be reversed by handfuls of money.

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