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Daniel Cormier perplexed how anyone could think he'll lose title to Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220


Daniel Cormier repeats a similar quote time and time again when it comes to MMA competition: “There are levels to this game.”

Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC), the UFC light heavyweight champion, strongly believes there’s truth behind that adage, and he intends on proving it once again when he puts his belt up for grabs against Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) in the co-main event of UFC 220, which takes place Jan. 20 at TD Garden in Boston and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Given his history and accomplishments, Cormier said he doesn’t understand how anyone can doubt him. He’s beaten every opponent in front of him with the exception of Jon Jones (22-1 MMA, 16-1 UFC), but Cormier feels that every time there’s a new challenger, doubt about his ability begins to surface. He said he plans to show once again that he’s on a level few can rival.

“Every time I’ve stepped in the octagon I feel like I need to make a statement,” Cormier said on today’s UFC 220 conference call. “There’s a certain thing to me, that for some reason people see these guys as true threats to me and that they can just beat me. It’s always fun to go out and prove people wrong. Both fights against Anthony Johnson I went in as the underdog, because he knocked some guys out. That shouldn’t warrant a person being favored to win a fight because they can knock somebody out.

“You’ve got to look at a guy’s entire body of work,” he continued. “When I look at guys like Anthony Johnson and Volkan Oezdemir, for people to think they’re just going to beat me, to me it’s just crazy. It’s just crazy. I really do feel pressure, because I want pressure, but I like making people say, ‘Well, I guess he wasn’t the guy that was going to knock ‘DC’ out.’ That’s fine to me, to kind of just stick it to people.”

Cormier has a theory as to why he seems to find himself in this situation so often. His style is largely oriented around fighting at a high pace and making his opponent work every moment of the contest, be it on the ground or standing. It’s not the prettiest thing to watch, but it’s certainly effective.

For Oezdemir, though, the majority of his wins come from catching his opponent with heavy strikes and winning with a quick knockout. His past two UFC bouts have lasted just over a minute combined, and Cormier understands that generates excitement.

Oezdemir’s highlight reel might have the flashier finishes, but Cormier doesn’t see any scenario in which he’s added to it.

“I think people fall in love with power punchers,” Cormier said. “I believe it’s just because they’re exciting. They finish fights in no time. The fight gets going and all of a sudden, it’s over. You got guys like ‘Rumble,’ who was knocking everyone out. You got guys like Volkan, and they knock everybody out, so people fall in love with them. But it’s not just about punching hard. This game is about much more.

“It’s about what you have mentally, all around mixed martial arts game, experience. I always say, whether I’m at the commentary booth or on the post-game or just on these calls, there are levels to this game. When a person isn’t on the level, they get exposed very quickly. I think that Volkan’s a fantastic fight. I believe he believes in himself and in his power, but to beat me, just being a powerful guy, ain’t going to be enough.”

Although his focus going into UFC 220 is solely on Oezdemir, “DC” knows there’s bigger meaning attached for his career in general. The fight is Cormier’s first since his encounter with Jones at UFC 214 in July. He suffered a third-round knockout to lose the title at that event, but the result was eventually overturned to a no-contest and the belt returned to Cormier after Jones received a potential anti-doping violation for a failed drug test.

Jones’ future is currently uncertain, but regardless, Cormier is unable to avoid questions about his rival. Jones’ decision-making has had a great impact on Cormier’s career, and while he may never be able to shake that “stench” away, Cormier knows winning at UFC 220 will create further separation from what’s happened in the past.

“My career is so closely tied to those fights (with Jones) that I do need to win in dominant fashion,” Cormier said. “More so this time because of what happened in the last fight. But my goal is always to go out and dominate, and that’s what I’ve done for the vast majority of my career. Nothing’s really changed. The only pressure comes from what I’m really putting on myself, because of the way the last fight ended.

“That’s my cross to bear,” he continued. “I didn’t get the job done. If I would have won those fights it wouldn’t matter, all his out-of-the octagon issues. But because I lost, I’ve got to carry that burden. I can’t look to escape that, and I’m not trying to. All I can do is make that motivate me to be better today than I was (before).”

For more on UFC 220, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.



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