(SPONSORED CONTENT) -- The coming year could be a big one for Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titleholder Daniel Cormier. First up, he will return to the Octagon at UFC 210, where he will defend his title in a rematch against Anthony Johnson -- the man he defeated to claim the vacant belt at UFC 187 -- on April 8 in Buffalo, New York.
Should he vanquish “Rumble” for a second time, an even greater challenge looms come summer, when Jon Jones’ USADA suspension ends. Avenging the UFC 182 loss to Jones -- the only defeat of his career -- could very well be the last remaining obstacle in Cormier’s decorated professional tenure. In an exclusive Sherdog.com interview presented by Halo Wars 2, Cormier discusses those topics and more as he awaits his first title defense since October 2015:
Sherdog.com: How do you prepare for a fight?
Cormier: I work hard, man. Training camp, I do a lot of different things. First thing’s first: start to clean up that nutrition, that diet, start to actually prepare my body for a training camp; but mentally, too, just kind of prepare my mind, my body, for the next eight weeks.
Sherdog.com: How do you get to “Know Your Enemy” before a fight?
Cormier: I think I get to know my opponent by just researching him, watching some video. I’m trying to gauge him, not only inside of the Octagon but just in everything. I watch his interviews; I watch his TV appearances; I watch everything he does to try to see and gauge him on a different level. It’s really time-consuming, but it also really does help me.
Sherdog.com: What is your training like?
Cormier: Intense. Tough. It just takes a lot of time. I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized how time-consuming the actual act of training is. It’s like three and half, four hours a day, and that’s not counting drive time and everything else. It’s some long days, but it’s also fulfilling. It also feels good whenever you leave the gym and you got something accomplished on that day.
Sherdog.com: Do you study your opponents style to prepare counterattacks in advance?
Cormier: A little bit, but I choose to feel that my style just counters my opponents naturally. Because if I do what I’m supposed to do, it’ll take care of everything that he’s trying to do. It’s very important to me to really focus on myself as I prepare for my opponent, because my techniques will actually counter my opponent’s techniques naturally.
Sherdog.com: What do you take away from each fight that helps you prepare for the next?
Cormier: Mentality, getting through the grind of a 25-minute fight. All my fights lately have been five rounds. Just getting through the training before the fight prepares me so much for the act of actually fighting. It’s mentality more than anything, that I can pretty much do anything if I just set my mind to it and work hard towards accomplishing that goal.
Sherdog.com: How do you think your rematch with Anthony Johnson at UFC 210 will be different than your first meeting when you captured the vacant light heavyweight championship?
Cormier: I think he’ll be a better version of himself. I think that he’ll fight harder longer. I think his takedown defense will be improved, but I think at the end of the day, the result will stay the same; but the look of the fight will be a little bit different because I believe he will be a better version of himself.
Sherdog.com: Is “Rumble” the hardest-hitting opponent you have faced in your MMA career?
Cormier: He hits hard. Pure punching power, I would still say Dan Henderson, but in terms of speed and the power, I think he hits faster. That’s what people don’t realize. Not only is Anthony hitting hard, but he is very, very fast with his technique. I think that’s what people are missing. He hits hard because you’re not really prepared for the speed he attacks with.
Sherdog.com: Is cardio Johnson’s greatest weakness? Do you think he will have the gas tank to go five rounds against you if it comes to that?
Cormier: His cardio [is his weakness], but because he puts so much into his shots you’re going to get tired. Yeah, if he has to go five rounds, I think he can. I don’t know if he can go five rounds at the pace I’m going to make him go five rounds at. If he fought somebody else and they let him go five rounds at a nice leisurely pace, a walk in the park, he’d be able to do that, but my pace is no walk in the park. The pace is going to be frantic; it’s going to be hard; and I don’t know many guys that can actually go 25 minutes at that pace.
Sherdog.com: Why do you think it is more difficult to develop young talent in the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions than it is in other weight classes? Many of the names in the rankings are the same they were years ago.
Cormier: Big guys usually do the big sports, you know, football and basketball, but even at 185 [pounds], the guys that are champions ... Michael Bisping: How long has he been fighting? [Luke] Rockhold has been around 10 years. [Yoel] Romero has been around for a while now. [Ronaldo] “Jacare” [Souza] has been around forever. Vitor Belfort and Anderson Silva are still in the top 10. So I don’t think it’s limited to just the top two divisions. I think that’s kind of a misconception. It’s hard because guys are so good. Even at heavyweight, how many new guys are there because the guys that have been so good for so long are still there?
Sherdog.com: How has your role as an analyst helped you in your own MMA career?
Cormier: It has helped me a ton. A lot of times when you’re getting prepared to fight somebody, you watch them as your opponent, so all you’re really doing is looking for weaknesses; but as an analyst, I actually watch them as guys that are fighting, not necessarily fighting just to fight against me. They’re just fighting, so I’m able to get an unbiased perspective on what they’re doing inside of the Octagon.
Sherdog.com: What do you expect from Jones, both as a person and a fighter, when his suspension ends this summer?
Cormier: I really don’t know. I really don’t care about what he becomes as a person. As a fighter, I expect someone that’s going to fight at the top of the division again. He’s always fought at the top of the division, so I don’t see why that would change. He’s very talented. As a person, I really don’t care what happens. He can be the same guy that he’s been and it would not matter to me at all, because my life’s good, my life’s set. His life to me doesn’t matter. I’ve let go of all that. I’ve let go of the fact that he’s an idiot. I’ve let it go because it does nothing for me.
Sherdog.com: How important is it to you to be able to avenge that loss to Jones before your career ends?
Cormier: It’s very important to me as a fighter and as a competitor to make sure I fight him again and I win, because he beat me; and only because he beat me, I have to make that right. That is my biggest goal in the entire sport. That’s the only goal I have left, honestly. I’ve won the Strikeforce title. I’ve won the UFC title. I’ve won 90 percent of my fights. There’s just not that much more for me to do but avenge that loss. Goal No. 1 is defending that belt and goal No. 2 is avenging that loss to Jones.