Determination separates Cormier from rest

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- On camera and off. In the gym before, during and after workouts. One-on-one or in a group. Unbeaten heavyweight contender Daniel Cormier is the furthest thing from shy.

Expressing supreme confidence in his ability to remain undefeated on Saturday against former heavyweight champion Frank Mir at the HP Pavilion, Cormier, 34, believes that "when it comes to heart and drive I beat [Mir] every time."

"When I sit back and I honestly think about the fight I have a lot of advantages, and if I use them I should be OK," Cormier said prior to a recent training session at the American Kickboxing Academy. "He's a good heavyweight but when you really think about it there's a difference between a lifetime athlete and a guy that started doing something a little bit older. I think it's going to show in the fight.

"I've been competing my entire life. It's what I do. That's what I plan to do on April 20th. And if he's ready to raise himself to that competitive level then I'm going to have a tough fight on my hands. But if he isn't, then I'm just gonna run right over him."

Cormier makes his Octagon debut three and a half years after transitioning from amateur wrestler to professional mixed martial artist, and while it conflicts with his general disposition, the Strikeforce Grand Prix champion admitted that even he's surprised by how quickly he picked stuff up.

"I didn't anticipate having these kind of fights as soon as I did," Cormier said.

Stopping Antonio Silva and dominating a five-round decision against Josh Barnett sent a clear message that Cormier, squat and quick, is a name was worth remembering. Expectations set in, especially after Barnett, and he was matched with Mir for a bout late last year on one of the last Strikeforce cards. When Mir was injured, the fight was postponed and Cormier went from facing a highly dangerous and respected former champion to facing Dion Staring.

The contrast messed with Cormier, especially on fight night.

Competing in hostile environments around the world since he was a teenager didn't help make the situation any more comfortable for Cormier. Fighting Staring, an opponent nobody thought could win, prompted Cormier's impermeable confidence to spring a leak. Everything was about him and his future and not the competition, and that was different and uneasy.

"I think the most pressure situation I had was the last one because I knew that if I won that fight I was in for some really big fights," Cormier said. "I don't know what would have happened if Dion Staring would have beaten me, and that's what scares you: the unknown.

"There was a lot of pressure to just go out there and beat him up. That's not how it works. We're all professional fighters."

Yet if things line up the way Cormier expects them to, he sees himself running through Mir en route to the top of the heavyweight division, which is currently ruled by his friend and training partner Cain Velasquez. As a result there have been calls for Cormier to drop to 205. Mir suggested that he'll be the guy who proves Cormier's less-than-prototypical heavyweight frame will cost him at the highest level -- though results against Silva and Barnett suggest the opposite.

As far as light heavyweight goes, Cormier is willing to fight there despite a history of health issues related to weight cutting -- including kidney failure -- because, he said, regardless of whom he fights, including Jon Jones, he'll hold a significant edge.

History. His, to be specific.

He trusts his competitive experience and his natural ability will carry the day against all comers. It sounds cocky, but it's not. Cormier's confidence is infectious and heavily influenced by his drive and determination to be good at whatever it is he chooses to do.

The package, as Cormier described it, is the antidote of fear rather than the disease of arrogance.

"I'm determined to be the best that I can be, whether that be UFC champion or No. 1 contender or maybe I never fight for a belt," he said. "But if that's the best I can do as Daniel Cormier, then that's the best I can do. I'll be able to go on to the next phase of my life and be OK. I have a desire to be good at everything I do and I work my tail off to accomplish it.

"I'm fighting the best guys in the world now, you never know what's going to happen, but for me personally on April 20 I anticipate winning that fight in a manner that's going to make my teammates and coaches proud of what I did."

As a matter of fact, mixed martial arts is an exercise in proving what you're made of.

Cormier's success hasn't required that he show the world any special mettle yet, however "I know if I need to I'll be willing to."