<
>

Cormier honors daughter's memory with win

Daniel Cormier was fighting for more than just the "W" on Saturday. Ric Fogel for ESPN.com

To all those watching from inside American Airlines Center and across the United States on Showtime, there was definitely something special about Daniel Cormier’s performance this past Saturday.

The night certainly meant a lot to the 32-year-old -- although for reasons far greater than simply adding another win to his perfect mixed martial arts record.

Saturday’s Strikeforce event in Dallas came just four days after the eight-year anniversary of the tragic death of Cormier’s three-month-old daughter, Kaedyn, who was killed in an automobile accident on June 14, 2003.

Cormier said it meant a lot to honor his daughter’s memory Saturday, delivering the most impressive performance of his career in his most high-profile fight to date.

“It was definitely special,” Cormier told ESPN.com. “My daughter passed away in 2003. So, four days after the anniversary of her passing, I was able to fight and do something positive. That means a lot to me.”

A former member of the U.S. Olympic wrestling team, Cormier’s unanimous decision win over long-time veteran Jeff Monson was arguably the most impressive victory of the weekend.

Successful thus far thanks mostly to his wrestling background, Cormier (8-0) dominated Monson with striking skills very few were aware he had. No one seemed caught off-guard more by it than Monson, who looked stiff and uncomfortable in an area of the fight many thought he’d dictate.

“Honestly, the game plan was to stand with him,” Cormier said. “He’s been fighting for so long and I’ve really only been fighting for 18 months, so his biggest advantage in his mind had to have been striking and jiu-jitsu.

“But we know what we do in the gym and I felt confident. I didn’t want to wrestle. I’m not nervous standing with anyone.”

When a fighter looks as good as Cormier did this weekend, expectations can blow through the roof. That’s especially the case with Cormier, who carries the Olympic wrestling background and trains with a phenomenal, well-known camp in the American Kickboxing Academy.

Cormier says he’s flattered with those high expectations but has held on to the grounded, realistic approach that’s defined his MMA career thus far. One day at a time. One fight at a time.

He doesn’t feel he’s in a position to ask for fights, but admits he’d like the opportunity to distinguish himself as a top alternate for the ongoing Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. Currently, he’s considered a top choice for an alternate spot along with Shane Del Rosario and Chad Griggs.

“My goal is to be the best in the world, but I’m not there now,” Cormier said. “In reality, I think it should be me and Shane Del Rosario or have me fight Chad Griggs. We’re both in this alternate tournament, it seems logical that we fight each other.

“There is no clear cut alternate right now. There’s two or three. The alternate tournament hasn’t settled anything let because there is still me, Shane and Chad. It seems logical that we fight each other next.”