We don’t know where and we don’t know when, but Daniel Cormier will defend his new UFC light heavyweight title against Alexander Gustafsson.
Cormier beat Anthony Johnson by submission last month at UFC 187 to claim the previously vacant belt, as former champion Jon Jones was suspended and stripped of his title following a series of legal issues, including his involvement in a hit-and-run.
Cormier is 16-1 – with his only loss coming to Jones in January at UFC 182 – while Gustafsson is 16-3. Gustafsson has lost two of his last three fights: a unanimous decision against Jones and a first-round knockout against Johnson.
Cormier is just happy to have the belt.
“You know what, man? I’m excited,” he said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I think Alexander Gustafsson is a tough guy. He’s done some good things in his career. Really weird position that we find ourselves in with Gustafsson getting the fight after losing to Johnson. But what it looks like to me, it’s a tournament. It’s almost like a tournament and you take the four best guys remaining and you put them in a bracket. In the bracket, Rashad Evans and Ryan Bader are the No. 2 and the No. 3 seeds. I’m the No. 1 seed and Alexander Gustafsson, who barely gets into the tournament, now he gets to fight the best guy. So by default he gets the championship fight because he’s in the tournament and he’s the lowest seed. That’s how I view it.”
That’s fair, Doug Gottlieb said – just as long as Cormier, also an Oklahoma State product, doesn’t “pull a Kansas,” which has a history of losing to lower seeds in March.
Cormier doesn’t intend to.
“He’s the lowest of the seeds,” Cormier said of Gustafsson, continuing the analogy. “That’s how he got into the tournament. He back-doored his way in. He actually went to the Big 12 tournament and somehow got on a run and made the tournament. That’s what happened.”
Jones (21-1), meanwhile, has been suspended indefinitely. He had won 12 straight matches, including eight by knockout or submission.
“He’s gone, man,” Cormier said. “He checked out. By doing the things that he did outside of the octagon, he took himself out of the game. He went and played baseball for two years and the Houston Rockets won the championship. He took himself out of the game. There’s nothing we can do but compete. Being a champion is not only limited to inside of the eight-sided octagon. You have things to do outside of the octagon, too.”
Such as not breaking the law.
“When guys get into trouble, they have to answer for it,” Cormier said. “The UFC did a great job of making Jones answer for his issues. No one’s untouchable. It just shows that the division just kind of moved on without him. It’s sad because he’s such a special talent.”