Daniel Cormier's head continued to spin on Friday, two days after the UFC officially reinstated him as its light heavyweight champion.
During his two-year title reign, Cormier (19-1) repeatedly said he was an undisputed champion -- even though he never technically took the belt from its previous owner, Jon Jones.
Cormier said it wasn't his fault Jones was ineligible to compete. And while Jones was sidelined for various reasons, Cormier won the vacant title in 2015 and defended it against dangerous opponents in Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson.
Under the new circumstances, however -- Jones defeated Cormier at UFC 214 in July but failed a drug test that changed the result to a no-contest -- Cormier admits he's struggling to process things.
"The people around me, my friends, they tell me that nothing has changed because if he was not fighting completely clean, then there was no fight," Cormier told ESPN. "But I was there. I fought. In my mind, I lost a competition, but if it was an unfair competition -- I shouldn't have been in it.
"It's a hard question. I guess I do feel like the champion, because I know I was the champion before all this happened. I don't know. It's a difficult question to ask someone like me. My manager, my wife, my coaches -- it's easy for them to answer. For me, it's a tough question."
In a social media post on Friday, Cormier encouraged fans to "lay off of Jones" and give him time to "figure out what's going on."
Jones (22-1) has denied knowingly taking a banned substance. His agent, Malki Kawa, said he believes the failed test was caused by tainted supplements.
Cormier said he's careful about "kicking someone when they're down" but that he isn't looking to make excuses for Jones. Jones now has failed drug tests three separate times in connection to fights against Cormier, including a positive test for cocaine in 2015.
"I think he has the right to defend himself and we have to be careful about piling on this guy right now," Cormier said. "But three times we've been scheduled to fight, and in every one of those situations, he's failed for something. How can you not expect me to think something is going on?
"I believe it points to the fact that losing to me was not really an option for Jon, and whatever had to be done was going to be done in order to ensure that didn't happen."
Jones, 30, is facing a maximum four-year suspension. Certain details of his case are puzzling, including the outdated substance he tested positive for and a pair of clean tests he submitted on July 6 and 7.
A former member of the U.S. wrestling team, Cormier said he is aware of those details but struggles to chalk this up as some kind of misunderstanding.
"The hardest part is, why hasn't this happened to me?" Cormier said. "If all these supplements are so easily messed with, why haven't I tested positive in 12 years? I've been in this program for 12 years because of wrestling. Why haven't my supplements been tainted?
"Why haven't I taken something that made it easier for me to get out of bed in the morning? That's where the frustration comes from."
The UFC has not yet announced a date or opponent for Cormier's first title defense following his reinstatement. And a title fight under these circumstances might prove to be a hard sell.
Cormier didn't necessarily disagree but said he always intended to fight again after UFC 214. If fans were interested in his career before this new saga with Jones, they still should be.
"If people aren't interested, they have every right," Cormier said. "But I think a lot of questions about the belt will be answered once I defend the title again. Right now, it's hard because the last time I fought, I lost.
"I think in time, people will remember me for the things I've accomplished. I'll definitely be tied to Jones, but people will more respect what I did and this other stuff will fade. But it will take time."