At the 2008 Olympics, U.S. freestyle wrestling captain Daniel Cormier successfully weighed in with the 211.5-pound class. Hours later, he was losing weight – rapidly.
Cormier, in the hunt for a medal and hoping to give his team the lift it needed, wasn't there as his opposition, Cuban Michael Batista, strode out and was awarded victory over the Americans.
Kidney failure, doctors deemed it later. Cormier had been unable to rehydrate himself, causing his kidneys to wither as he grew weaker and weaker. Eventually, he would recover and return to action; but six years later, he remains haunted by the missed chance.
"Everything now I've learned from my experience in the Olympic games," Cormier says. "So, I'm better for it. Now though, I don't take opportunities for granted. Everything is 100% commitment - to my training, to my fight preparation, to my family. Everything I do is with 100% commitment because I am afraid to miss out on an opportunity like I did at the Olympic games. That will not happen to me again for my entire life, because I will now allow it."
As if to drive the point home, the whimsical yelp of a child yelp cuts into the conversation.
"That's my daughter, saying hello," he says with a laugh.
Cormier's most recent opportunity will be to serve as an analyst for UFC 178 this Saturday when FOX broadcasts a record 16 hours of UFC coverage from July 4-6, including weigh-ins, pre-fight shows, prelims and postfight shows for UFC 175 and the finale of The Ultimate Fighter.
While not fighting in any bouts, the new perspective will allow him to offer insight, while becoming educated without the risk of bodily injury. In that way, Cormier may be doing the other fighters a favor. Australian Soa Paleilei was hoping for better results in his recent bout with Jared Rosholt than when he had fought Cormier, who soundly defeated him. It was following that match loss to Cormier that Paleilei announced he would never lose again – and hadn't, until Rosholt ended a three-win streak.
"No one should ever want to lose," Cormier says of his effect on other fighters. "[Paleilei] is a good guy. And if he doesn't want to lose again, he shouldn't want to lose in that fashion again. He's done a good job of trying to ensure that it doesn't happen again."
Cormier's next chance to fight should be soon, but at the moment, he's lost 50% of his ACL. In June, his name had come up when lightweight champion Jon Jones expressed a desire to take on Cormier rather than Alexander Gustafsson for the title. UFC had maneuvered things so that Jones-Gustafsson would happen, despite Jones' public claims that Cormier was more worthy.
At the time, Cormier was preparing to undergo knee surgery, but wasn't about to let an opportunity for a championship slip through his fingers.
"Oh yeah, for sure," he recalls. "I knew with 100% certainty that if I got the opportunity to fight for a title I was not going to have a surgery, I was just going to fight. With 100% certainty I can say that. Eventually the fight will happen, I'll be happy, I'll have some time to recover."
Fortunately for his knee, UFC vetoed Jones' wish and the fight went to Gustafsson. Regardless, Cormier remains primed to take on any challenge, whether it require him to throw on a suit and talk shop or strap on his gloves and pummel a challenger – of which there are many.
It wasn't too long ago that young fighter and barista Pat Cummins was granted the dream come true of stepping into the title fight of a UFC match. His opponent would be Cormier, and despite Cummins' underdog status, he was taking the challenge with gusto. Cummins stirred up gossip from the past in an attempt to get in Cormier's head, citing an instance during a practice fight in which he brought Cormier to tears.
There were no tears when Cormier stomped Cummins at UFC 170. But that hasn't stopped Cummins from continuing to tell anyone who will listen that the result was such a fluke that he could still beat Cormier nine times out of ten.
"Tie one arm behind my back, and I would fight with no mouth piece and one glove. That's what he would need. I would also need to start on my back."
Very calmly, he continued.
"I'm not even saying that Patrick Cummins couldn't beat me once. But to beat me nine times out of ten – or I guess nine times in a row, since I beat him the first time - he would have to start with a rear naked choke, locked in, put an arm bar, me in a triangle, every single fight in order to beat me nine times in a row."
Nine would be a lot. Meanwhile, behind him, his daughter's delighted babbling went on.