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12th Apr 2017

Daniel Cormier’s insult to Jon Jones might hit him harder than the heaviest haymaker

It's probably true

Ben Kiely

Dominick Cruz hit the nail on the head on a recent episode of the Joe Rogan Podcast Experience.

When the greatest bantamweight fighter in the history of the sport was sidelined indefinitely with injury after injury after injury and unsure if he would return before everyone forgot just how outstanding he was, he felt lost.

It’s something that often happens to not just professional athletes, but anyone who dedicates their entire being to that unachievable goal of perfection in their respective craft.

In Rafael Nadal’s biography Rafa: My Story, the tennis icon briefly glossed over a time he broke down in tears while staying in his hometown while he was recovering from an injury setback. He put it down to regret over the sacrifices he made in the pursuit of sports superstardom, and in doing that, he may very well have lost his identity without the racket in his hand. Much like how Cruz felt without those 4oz gloves on.

“What I realised was I turned off all my emotional, spiritual and mental issues with exercise to where I never, ever, ever dealt with them… ever. I only physically worked them out. So my physical was perfection. I was a world champion monster killer, whatever you want to call me in your own respective mind, but emotionally, physically and spiritually I was a cricket.”

“And I never understood that until I was hurt, trapped in my own body like a prison cell. Couldn’t train, couldn’t run, couldn’t walk, couldn’t bend my leg, laying on the couch eating pain pills realising, man, unless you train, unless you compete you hate yourself. You hate yourself. You’re a piece of shit in your own mind without those things.”

Jon Jones is arguably the greatest fighter to ever grace an Octagon and up until a couple of years ago, his only loss came as a result of disqualification due to the archaic 12-6 elbows rule. Supposedly, this asterisk was added to the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts because of those classic videos of karate practitioners breaking wooden boards using this technique.

If you can use it to break a board, you can’t hit a human with it, was apparently their thinking.

However, for the last while, Jones has been losing to the toughest opponent he’s ever faced – himself. He has committed multiple driving offences, has been popped for cocaine metabolites, brawled with Daniel Cormier at a media event, has pleaded guilty to a hit-and-run in which a pregnant woman broke her arm and failed an in-competition test for oestrogen blockers.

He hasn’t competed in a long time, he has had two belts taken off him and when Cormier wasn’t in the news, he disappeared into the shadows. The only time he re-emerged was for a grappling match against legendary fighter Dan Henderson, which suggests that he needs the competitive element and the spotlight to prove that he is the great Jon ‘Bones’ Jones.

His arch rival Cormier alluded to this on Monday’s MMA Hour. Although they wheeled out Jimi Manuwa to sit in the crowd for DC’s latest defence over the now retired Anthony Johnson, it was impossible to ignore Jones’ presence in the arena.

That’s the fight the people want to see. That’s the fight that Cormier wants next. However, more importantly, Cormier thinks it’s the fight Jones needs to rediscover who is. If that’s his mindset, he will probably never find the answer he’s looking for.

“That guy needs to fight. That guy needs to come back and fight me. Because this thing doesn’t define who I am as a human being. I think Jon Jones, he needs to be Jon Jones the fighter, because there is nothing else.”

“If you take away Jon Jones the fighter, what is there? Jon Jones the college drop out? Jon Jones the guy that actually ran over some chick in his vehicle? Who is he? He needs this to define him. You strip away everything else… there’s layers to who I am. So he needs this more than me. I don’t need him anymore.”

The reason why this insult hits so much harder than the usual hackneyed trash talk is because it just might be true.