DALLAS (105.3 THE FAN) – Daniel Cormier is not taking his opponent lightly in Saturday night’s final Strikeforce fight card in Oklahoma City, even if few insiders know very little about him.
Dion Staring has nothing on his resume to suggest that he should be less than the 20-1 underdog (unheard of odds in mixed martial arts) that he is to Cormier. A Dutchman who has served as a sparring partner for UFC heavyweight superstar Alistair Overeem (the man who pummeled Brock Lesnar into retirement), Staring’s most notable opponent is Rogerio Nogueria, who he lost to via submission. Other than that, he is literally an international man of mystery, as the spot where a picture of him should appear next to Cormier on the Strikeforce website is currently occupied by an anonymous silhouette.
Cormier’s last fight on his contract with Strikeforce and the Showtime network was supposed to be a much bigger attraction. After winning the organization’s Grand Prix heavyweight tournament by soundly defeating top talent like Josh Barnett, Antonio SIlva and Jeff Monson, the organization was hard pressed to find anyone else within their ranks worthy of giving him his send off to The UFC. Zuffa ( the parent company that owns both The UFC and Strikeforce) even went so far as to take to unprecedented step of lending former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir to their sister organization for what was expected to me a much anticipated main event attraction. Shortly after tickets went on sale Mir was injured, and shortly after that it was announced that Strikeforce would be shutting it’s doors after Saturday night. What followed was a mass exodus of fighters from the card who came up with injuries themselves. While Cormier told me that he believes those injuries to be legitimate, some have suggested that at least some of those fighters may be using their claims as a convenient excuse to abandon a sinking ship while not risking losing their opportunity to join the UFC ranks once the promotion is defunct.
For the former Olympian Cormier however, remaining on the fight card was important to him, both for the sake of keeping a commitment and for his chance to fight in front of his adopted hometown of Oklahoma City, where he was a part of the Oklahoma State Cowboys’ legendary wrestling program that also produced UFC hall of famer Randy Couture. A quick drive north from Dallas, Cormier is excited to invite DFW fans to make the trip Saturday night to see what is still, despite scheduling issues, a talent rich card. Former UFC stars Nate Marquardt and Josh Barnett will be fighting, and current UFC middleweight Ed Herman will be coming over to Strikeforce for a one off fight as well.
Cormier’s AKA training partner and close friend Cain Valasquez captured the UFC heavyweight title from Junior Dos Santos at UFC 155 two weeks ago, and Daniel has been rumored to be considering a drop down to light heavyweight to avoid a likely confrontation with Valasquez when he debuts as a top ranked fighter in The UFC. He has made no secret of the fact that he would like a fight with UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones, and if Jones can win his fight with Chael Sonnen in April, calls for that match up could get louder.
For now though, Daniel Cormier is intently focused on defeating an opponent that he is overwhelmingly expected to beat, and one who losing to would be seen as one of the biggest upsets in recent MMA history. Cormier tells me that he has taken Staring no less seriously than he would if he were instead training for Mir or anyone else, and I believe him. I boast that I “trained under” Cormier for twenty whole minutes this past summer at The UFC’s “media workout day” that was held in conjunction with UFC 148. I brag about it because Cormier punished myself and other media members with a wrestling based workout that had us dropping in droves inside the UFC’s octagon. Fellow UFC fighters Joeseph Benavidez, Alan Belcher and Mike Pyle watched in amazement as Cormier showed no mercy on the media contingent that didn’t exactly come into the gym in “fighting” shape.
Daniel Cormier is hardcore, and he’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever talk to when he’s not yelling at you for an inferior sprawling technique. Listen to my full interview with him here: