Daniel Cormier is beating Dana White to the punch.
Set to be stripped of his UFC light heavyweight championship belt on Saturday night, Cormier instead relinquished the belt himself on Friday.
According to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, Cormier said he is giving the belt in the 205-pound division rather than wait for the outcome of the Jon Jones-Alexander Gustafsson fight at UFC 232 in Inglewood, Calif., on Saturday night.
“Today I am going to relinquish the UFC light heavyweight title,” Cormier wrote in a statement. “I am not going to be stripped of the belt that I’ve defended with my all for three and a half years. Being stripped of a title suggests you’ve done something wrong, and I haven’t.
“I’d rather walk away this way, with my head held high as it always has been, than have the history books say I was stripped. I’ve 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 lost the belt in the Octagon to Jones in July 2017, but Jones tested positive for a banned substance and the belt was returned to Cormier. Cormier has defended the belt once since then, but after knocking out Stipe Miocic to win the heavyweight championship in July of this year, Cormier has focused on the heavyweight division.
In his most recent fight, the 39-year-old Cormier submitted Derrick Lewis to retain the heavyweight belt in November. Since he will not go below the 205-pound limit to fight as a light heavyweight again, Cormier has said he long expected to be stripped of the title. The Jones-Gustafsson fight made that a reality, as the winner gets the light heavyweight belt.
Cormier will retain the heavyweight championship after relinquishing the light heavyweight title.
He has said he will retire by his 40th birthday, which will be March 20, 2019.
—Field Level Media