The Spectrum sits down with Anthony “Rumble” Johnson and Daniel Cormier before UFC 210
It’s been 21 years since the UFC has held an event in Buffalo.
After the long layoff and battle to legalize the sport in New York State, the UFC is set to make its return this Saturday, April 8 at the Keybank Center with two huge fights headlining the card.
In the main event, Daniel “DC” Cormier (18-1), the UFC light heavyweight champion and former Olympic wrestler, will look to get his second title defense against one of the most feared knockout artists in the sport: Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (22-5).
The Spectrum sat down for exclusive interviews with Cormier and Johnson at Media Day, Wednesday at the KeyBank Center.
“I know [Johnson] can’t beat me. He ain't going to submit me, he isn’t going to beat me by decision. He has to get a knockout to win this fight,” Cormier said.
Cormier owns a submission victory over Johnson from May 2015, when they fought for the vacant light heavyweight title.
Though Johnson stunned Cormier in the first fight, Cormier was able to weather the onslaught and submit Johnson in the third round. Cormier used his knowledge from the first fight as the “base” for training for this fight.
“I have prepared myself for a much better version of Anthony Johnson,” Cormier said. “I don’t care if he respects anything I do, I am still going to beat him up. He can either respect me or not respect me, it doesn’t matter. On Saturday, I get to go in there and beat on him.”
Though Cormier is confident in a win, he still remains cautious toward Johnson’s skill set. He even calls him the fastest striker he has ever fought.
Johnson comes into the fight on a three-fight win streak, each by way of KO. Johnson’s last loss was to DC at UFC 187. Even though he has experience against Cormier, Johnson only has one expectation:
“I don’t know what to expect out there but I do expect his best no matter what. He is an elite athlete, he's the champion,” Johnson said.
For Johnson, UFC 210 is about not letting the title slip away again. He’s put in the work and now wants the belt to show for it. With his recent successes training, Johnson heads into fight weekend cool and collected.
“I have no worries, because I know I have prepared myself. I feel like I am a better striker now, I feel like I am a better fighter overall,” Johnson said.
That improvement will be Johnson’s biggest asset heading into the fight, which he credits to his coaches.
“We worked our asses off in the gym to get back here right now. I am here representing my guys to the fullest extent. I am not just fighting, they are fighting too,” Johnson said.
But before the title fight, two middleweight elites will square off in the co-main event: “The All-American” Chris Weidman (13-2) will take on long-time contender Gegard Mousasi (41-6-2).
Many analysts look at Mousasi versus Weidman as the most exciting fight on the card. Most of the excitement comes from Mousasi’s current four-fight win streak.
All four of those wins were in 2016 and Mousasi looked spectacular in each fight. Mousasi is currently one of the most active fighters in the division, something he sees as an advantage.
“[Weidman] had injuries, he hasn’t fought a lot lately. When you do it regularly it becomes a routine, it becomes easier,” Mousasi said.
Mousasi’s fight against former champ Wiedman is Mousasi’s chance to get his name in the middleweight title picture. Mousasi is generally considered one of the most dangerous finishers in the whole sport. He has collected a total of 22 KO/TKOs and 12 submissions in his career.
Mousasi remains confident that he can win and feels he is stylistically too tough for Weidman.
“He is going to box for a couple of minutes, but even an amateur can box for a couple of rounds with a pro,” Mousasi said. “At the end of the day, he relies on his wrestling and as a guy who can stop his takedowns, he is going to have a difficult time. Especially with my stand-up.”
If anyone disagrees with Mousasi’s sentiment, it is Weidman himself.
Weidman remains headstrong, even though he's coming off his first two professional MMA losses and title loss. The former middleweight champ believes he can compete with Mousasi on the ground and standing up.
“I feel like I am more confident than ever right now,” Weidman said. “I think it takes a mentally tough fighter to endure through tough times and come out the other side still confident.”
Weidman never showed doubt in his ability to get the win.
Weidman, a Baldwin, New York native, took trips to Buffalo back when the UFC was not yet legalized in New York State. Now he's back in Buffalo and wants to put on a great fight for the fans and get some home state support.
“That is not something I’ll weigh my hat on, but I hope,” Weidman said. “I am a New York born and raised guy so it would be nice if they do. But if they don’t, my goal will be the same – I have to go out there and beat Mousasi.”
UFC 210 will be held at the KeyBank Center on Saturday. The prelims start at 6:15 p.m. and the main card starts at 10 p.m.
Thomas Zafonte is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org