Cormier happy to fight Nelson; eyes Jones

If he's not fighting Fabricio Werdum, Daniel Cormier is happy to settle matters with Roy Nelson. Rod Mar/ESPN

Imagine if heavyweight contender Fabricio Werdum had gotten his wish and faced Daniel Cormier in a title eliminator. Then imagine Werdum losing. What a mess that would have left at the top of the division.

Earlier this month, UFC president Dana White revealed that Werdum requested a fight with Cormier. It was a bout UFC officials were seriously considering. Fortunately, they opted instead to have Cormier fight Roy Nelson on Oct. 19 at UFC 166 in Houston.

Here’s the deal, Cormier would have accepted the fight against Werdum; he loves being in high-profile bouts. But it’s highly likely Cormier would have beaten Werdum, and that’s when things would have gotten messy on the heavyweight contender landscape.

You see, Cormier will fight anyone UFC officials place in front of him, other than his close friend and training partner, heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. Cormier is a vicious human being inside the Octagon, but a considerate person outside of it. He doesn’t want to do harm to the promotion in any way. And knocking off Werdum would have resulted in lots of uncertainty at heavyweight.

The possibility of Cormier beating Werdum and the problems it would have created wasn’t lost on mixed martial arts fans. And they let Cormier know it.

“I’d kind of gotten a negative reaction from the general public about that,” Cormier told ESPN.com. “They were all like, ‘Well, you’re leaving the division, why would you guys fight in an eliminator? What if you win?' "

“I am leaving the division. But I like being in big fights. I imagine that [Werdum’s] the only guy with a real strong case for a title shot right now, outside of myself. Under normal circumstances, a title eliminator between us would be logical. But being that I’m trying to get down to the next weight division, it’s not as cut and dry as it would normally be."

“I would have taken the fight if UFC had offered it to me. I will fight anybody who’s winning, anyone but Cain. So if they would have offered me the fight with Werdum in an eliminator, I would have accepted it and I would have beaten him and not taken the title shot. It would have really kind of jacked things up a little bit.”

The potential for disaster, however, has been averted. There will be no title eliminator, and Cormier is okay with that. In addition to performing against top-caliber opponents, Cormier is motivated to put on solid performances. He gets to satisfy both in his final heavyweight fight.

Nelson has name recognition and almost always puts on exciting fights. He rarely ever takes a backward step. He’s the guy Cormier wanted to fight all along.

The two have been targeting one another since early June when Nelson claimed that Cormier turned down an offer to fight him at UFC 161 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Cormier took offense to Nelson’s allegation.

While White and UFC matchmaker Joe Silva were still weighing what to do next with Cormier, ESPN.com’s fourth-ranked heavyweight contender, he and Nelson took their spat to Twitter. And Monday night, promotion officials announced that the fight was on.

An excited Cormier told ESPN.com he couldn’t be happier. Things couldn’t be better in his pro fighting career at this time: He gets to settle matters with Nelson, look impressive doing so and make a solid case to fight for the light heavyweight title shot early in 2014.

Cormier is hell-bent on becoming the next 205-pound champion, whether Jon Jones still holds the belt when he arrives in the division or not. However, Cormier predicts Jones will defeat Alexander Gustafsson on Sept. 21 at UFC 165 in Toronto.

“I have the skills to win that fight [against Jones],” Cormier said. “But I have to get through [Nelson] first. I have to fight a fight that will strengthen my case."

“Because what I will be asking to do at the beginning of next year is something that is going to make a lot of people mad. I’m going to ask to cut the line at 205. So I have to have a fight [at UFC 166] where I am impressive. And show that my body of work warrants a title shot, even though it’s my first time fighting in that weight division.”

If Cormier looks impressive in beating Nelson and lands a title shot in his light heavyweight debut, there will be very few complaints from the masses. A Jones-Cormier title bout is sure to generate lots of excitement.