"It was very scary," he told USA TODAY Sports and MMAjunkie.com (UFC blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps
). "I was in the hospital. I was getting IV bags, not really eating food. I couldn't recover from the weight cut."
The two-time Olympic wrestler's harrowing experience came during the 2008 Beijing Games. As is customary with almost all elite-level wrestlers, Cormier was cutting water weight when his kidneys failed, forcing him to withdraw from the competition.
"I had been cutting weight for a really long time," Cormier said. "I think I started when I was 13, but I was doing it the wrong way. I put (a plastic sweatsuit) on a week before I weighed in, and I would just start sucking out that water. ... Your body can only take so much. I was beating it down every time. It was very scary."
Cormier's history is one reason, even at 5-10, all of his professional MMA bouts have been as a heavyweight, with its 265-pound limit. It's the division in which he'll make his UFC debut at Saturday's UFC on FOX & event in San Jose (FOX, 8 p.m. ET). Cormier (11-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) faces ex-UFC champ Frank Mir (16-6 MMA, 14-6 UFC), but he thinks that, win or lose, his future might lie in a different weight class.
"Physically, I'm different now," said Cormier, 34, an All-America wrestler at Oklahoma State. "When I was saying that I couldn't make light heavyweight, it wasn't happening. At my heaviest, I was 264 pounds. I was consistently weighing in for fights at 250 pounds, and that was after training camps. I was losing 7, 8 pounds and being 250 pounds at weigh-ins. Now, I wake up in the morning, and I'm 234 pounds. That's almost a 20-pound difference. Now it seems realistic. I'm lighter now than even when I was wrestling."
Dropping a division would alleviate the possibility of Cormier being asked to fight teammate and friend Cain Velasquez, the UFC's heavyweight champ. It would also open the possibility of facing Jon Jones, the UFC's dominant light heavyweight champ who Cormier has said he has interest in facing.
First comes Mir, the highest-profile opponent of his career. But it seems Cormier has options in two divisions.
"I think I have to just get through this fight and then see what happens next," Cormier said. "I'm going to fight with my heart and soul and give you everything I have to win this fight against Frank and continue to build to hopefully one day be the UFC champion."