Today, I see Daniel Cormier as one of a handful of the greatest fighters who ever lived.
Few have ever done it better than Cormier and no one has ever been classier.
But at some point in the not-too-distant future, he could become another Deane Beman.
Beman was a middle-of-the-pack player on the PGA Tour in the 1960s and early 1970s. He won four regular Tour events and finished second in the 1969 U.S. Open.
But it was after stepping away from competitive golf that Beman made his greatest impact. He became commissioner of the PGA Tour in 1974 and held the job for two decades. He was hugely successful in that role and, among his many accomplishments was not only an extraordinary legacy of charitable giving by the Tour, but the establishment of a pension for its players.
He created what was then known as the Senior PGA Tour in 1980 and vastly improved its television deals.
Don’t be shocked if Cormier has a similar type of impact in his post-fighting career.
He told ESPN on Monday that he plans to retire after one more bout, a rubber match with Stipe Miocic that has yet to be officially announced. UFC president Dana White said once Miocic is healed from injuries he suffered in his title-winning fight with Cormier in August, he’ll go about scheduling the rubber match.
Cormier could fight successfully for several more years, based on his performance in that loss to Miocic. Cormier was in command of the fight until Miocic did what elite athletes do and made an adjustment that turned the contest in his direction.
Have no doubt, though, that retiring after a rubber match is the best move Cormier could make, for himself, for his family and for the sport.
He’s a natural leader, and a bright, innovative thinker. There’s a reason he was the captain of the U.S. Olympic wrestling team in 2008 as well as the captain of the American Kickboxing Academy’s team.
The amount of respect his teammates show him is awe-inspiring, and is indicative of his character.
When he’s no longer competing himself or affiliated with a team, he’ll be able to have a more significant influence on making the sport better for those fighters who come behind him.
He’s a brilliant television commentator whose sharp, insightful analysis has improved the understanding and enjoyment of MMA for millions of fans who have had the pleasure to listen to his work.
But he can impact the sport in so many ways beyond just being the standard for a TV analyst. He could contribute to the rewriting of the rules, and make them less confusing, more effective and more fair for all.
He could help improve standards for safety in not only improving the rules, but in training, in weight cuts and in officiating.
Cormier has the type of personality who can mesh with labor and management, and he could be effective in helping fighters increase their pay, earn more benefits and developing a dispute resolution program.
If there were ever a commissioner of MMA, he’d be the perfect selection for it.
That, however unlikely, is a role he was born to hold.
He’s going to walk away from the sport as arguably the greatest heavyweight in MMA history and as one of its most popular stars. The perfect ending, of course, would be to reclaim the UFC heavyweight championship with a knockout victory over Miocic, and then for him to exit stage right to the roars of an adoring crowd in the main event of a stacked card.
Real life isn’t perfect, though, and the very distinct possibility exists that Miocic could successfully defend the belt he regained in August at UFC 241 in Anaheim, California.
The belt makes most of the fighters who win it; Cormier, though, is that rare guy who makes the belt. The UFC heavyweight championship is a lot more prestigious simply by virtue of the fact that Cormier wore it around his waist for 13 months.
It will, for his many fans, be sad to no longer see him inside the cage, but his contributions to MMA will continue long past the time he pulls off the gloves for the final time.
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