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UFC 214: Cormier v Jones 2 - The story behind the ultimate rivalry

Daniel Cormier is hell-bent on ending Jon Jones' redemption story as their bitter feud finally reaches boiling point in a huge UFC 214 rematch exclusively live on BT Sport, writes Simon Head.

Daniel Cormier’s rivalry with Jon Jones is undoubtedly the biggest in the UFC today and it comes to a head on Saturday night exclusively live on BT Sport at UFC 214 in Anaheim, California.

Watch UFC 214 live on BT Sport

The main event of the evening will see 38-year-old Cormier, a former amateur wrestling standout, put his undisputed UFC light-heavyweight championship on the line against Jones, the former champion who never lost the belt in the octagon.

It’s a rivalry that started when Jones, then a cocky young upstart from New York State, made a flippant remark to Cormier, who at the time was known to Jones simply as the then UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez’s wrestling coach.

When Jones told Cormier, “I bet you I could take you down,” that marked Jones’s card in the eyes of the two-time Olympian.

Now older and wiser at the age of 30, Jones has since tried to play down the encounter, which served as the catalyst for their rivalry, and it seems Cormier’s stance on it has softened a little, too.

“On a number of occasions he claimed he said it to strike up a new friendship,” Cormier says. “But for me, from the very first instance it was, ‘I’m better than you.’

“Even if it was in jest, it was competitive, and that formed the foundation of our relationship. And I’m okay with that.”

That uneasy early relationship became a fully fledged rivalry when Cormier dropped down from heavyweight to light-heavyweight and made a beeline for Jones’ title.

When the pair met in a huge title fight at UFC 182 in January 2015, it was Jones who came out on top, making good on his word by taking down Cormier multiple times en route to a decision victory.

But rather than looking to put an end to the rivalry after the contest, Jones then mocked his adversary, ensuring the hostilities would live on.

The result left Cormier crushed, and the proud Louisiana native resolved to come back and claim revenge in their hotly anticipated rematch, scheduled for UFC 200 last summer.

By then it was Cormier who was the champion, with Jones having been stripped of the title following a hit and run incident in which his car injured a pregnant woman.

But just three days before their bout, the fight was scrapped following news that Jones had failed a USADA anti-doping test.

Now the duelling duo will finally do battle for a second time, with Cormier the defending champ and Jones looking to reclaim everything he lost during a turbulent time in his life.

Jones insists he’s coming into the fight a changed man, but Cormier, whose clean-cut image has contrasted markedly with that of his rival, says that’s no concern of his.

“I don’t care if he’s made changes in his life,” he says. “I don’t care if he’s out every single night partying. All I care about is him getting to the octagon on Saturday.”

It’s a change in narrative for Cormier, who seems less emotionally driven as he looks to move away from engaging in slanging matches with Jones and instead focus on the task in hand – beating his rival and retaining his title.

“You know, at this point, I’m really not interested in arguing with this guy any more,” he explains. “I’m not interested in the back and forth and all that stuff. My goal is to get into the octagon on Saturday.”

Jones has played down Cormier’s chances, saying he beat him comfortably the first time, but ‘DC’ says he’s happy to see his opponent so confident heading into fight night.

“If all the things he’s saying right now are true, then great. If he feels he never had any danger in the last fight [with me], then great. If he feels my age will be the determining factor in this fight, then great,” he says.

“These are all things I can look forward to proving him wrong about on Saturday. The guy has no idea what he’s in for.”

If Cormier is successful, he’ll put an abrupt end to Jones’ redemption storyline that has featured strongly in the promotion of this contest – a story of past indiscretions and of a man fighting to reclaim everything he lost after falling from the pinnacle of the sport.

Cormier insists it will ultimately be him, not Jones, that gets to write the final chapter of this particular narrative.

“There is redemption in this story, but it’s not just about the championship any more,” he says.

“It’s in the fact that he gets another opportunity to be a good citizen, a good competitor and just a good human being in general. You take from that, you learn from that – learn from all the mistakes.

“The beauty in this situation is that I get to be the person between him and ultimate redemption. His hand won’t be raised in the octagon this weekend. Maybe later, but just not right now.”

And it will give Cormier the chance to move on from the verbal sparring that has punctuated his relationship with Jones over the years and instead focus on building one of the greatest in-cage rivalries the sport has ever seen.

Speaking about the pair’s verbal jousting, he admits: “I think it’s gotten a bit old because we’ve had to do this on so many different occasions.

“But as I’ve said time and time again, this rivalry is a rivalry when I win the fight this weekend. If I don’t win the fight, there is no rivalry.

“Outside of that, to me, it’s the highest level of mixed martial arts people can truly experience.”

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