‘I’d rather walk away with my head held high’: Cormier relinquishes UFC light heavyweight title
The UFC's only 'double champion' has given up one half of his championships ahead of Saturday's title fight between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson, saying he would prefer to hand over the belt rather than be stripped of it.
The 205lb title would have remained Cormier's until the first bell of the UFC 232 main event in Inglewood, California, at which point it would have been declared vacant and awarded to the winner of Jones and Gustafsson.
"Today I am going to relinquish the UFC light heavyweight title," Cormier told ESPN. "I am not going to be stripped of the belt that Ive defended with my all for three and a half years. Being stripped of a title suggests youve done something wrong, and I havent.
"Id rather walk away this way, with my head held high as it always has been, than have the history books say I was stripped. Ive defended this title this year. I was approached with the idea of fighting at heavyweight, so I took it. I fought three times in 2018. No champion has been more active than me. I am the fighter of the year. My story and my legacy will not include me being stripped of a title. They can have it."
Cormier, of course, will remain the UFC heavyweight champion, most recently defending that championship in November against Derrick Lewis. His last light heavyweight title bout came in January of this year when he earned a second-round stoppage victory against Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220.
However, the 39-year-old moved to heavyweight in July to challenge then-champ Stipe Miocic for his title, winning by knockout inside the first round.
Cormier has been closely linked with an early 2019 title bout against Brock Lesnar.
UFC president Dana White, meanwhile, says that Cormier's decision was taken purely because of his intense dislike of Jon Jones.
"Hes being a little dramatic right now," he said to MMA Junkie. "Hes being a little dramatic because of his hatred for Jon Jones. He wouldve never been stripped. Hes vacating. … I expect Cormier to be all fired up and on a rampage. He hates this guy."
To date, the only two blemishes on Cormier's professional career have come against Jones – though their second bout, originally a KO win for Jones, was later ruled a no-contest due to Jones failing a drug test.
Speaking on Cormier handing over the title, Jones said that it was a wise move.
"I heard that he ended up relinquishing his belt, and I think its a good look," he said on FS1. "I know most people know he was never the champion. Hats off to him for being the heavyweight champion of the world, but Ive been the light heavyweight champion since 2011. Thats just facts. The belt was given to him. He has not beat me. So he can cancel all doubts by challenging me and really being a legit champ-champ."