“I would be outside of myself to not say I went into this fight knowing my knee was pretty jacked up, and I was going to fight through it to get a title,” he said.
Sources close to the promotion told MMAjunkie that Jones suffered a torn meniscus and a sprained ankle during a wrestling practice and was forced to bow out of the grudge match with Cormier, which was scheduled to headline UFC 178. The event is now fronted by a flyweight title bout between champ Demetrious Johnson and Chris Cariaso. Jones and Cormier are now expected to meet on Jan. 3 at UFC 182 in Las Vegas.
With news of the injury, Cormier worried that he would be replaced by Alexander Gustafsson, who he replaced after Gustafsson suffered a minor injury. But he said he was assured by UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta that he will remain the No. 1 contender.
“I’ll get a full training camp now,” Cormier said. “When I heard Jon was hurt, now him and Gustafssson are on the same schedule in order to be healthy. So my first question was, ‘I don’t have to go behind Gustafsson again now, right?’ And I was assured that it’s going to be me in January. He’s not going to take my place again.”
Cormier declined to speculate on the circumstances surrounding Jones’ withdrawal, brushing aside the notion that Jones withdrew from UFC 178 because he is ducking a fight.
“I said from the beginning that Jon Jones isn’t afraid of anyone,” Cormier said. “But if I can go in there with a partially torn ACL, I think he should have fought; tough it up and fight.
“I don’t know the extent of his injuries, and if it’s really bad, I’ll take it back. But on the surface, I heard he hurt himself. But people hear ACL, they think you’re out for a year. I’ve been hurt, and I’ve been training. I wish he would have just fought.
“I’m saying tough it out sometimes,” he added. “Sometimes you’ve got to go in there and tough it out and just fight.”
In a previous interview with MMAjunkie, Cormier, who earlier this year made his light heavyweight debut against Patrick Cummins and dominated former champ Dan Henderson to take the No. 2 spot in the 205-pound division, said he declined corrective surgery on his right knee because his previously injured LCL (lateral collateral ligament) had healed enough to make a quick turnaround for Jones.
“I feel fine, boys,” he said. “I realize now that my LCL is what was bothering me, and the only thing you can do for that is time. Well, with time, it has healed, and my knee feels completely strong. I sparred yesterday, I did jiu-jitsu, and I ran. I’m fine. I feel pretty sore, I’ll be honest with you. Too much time behind the desk, and not enough time in the gym.”
In the interview with FOX, however, Cormier spotlighted his other injury, a partial tear of his ACL. In June, an MRI revealed the more serious issue, which prompted him to say he would go under the knife when Gustafsson was chosen to rematch Jones.
It appears Cormier will again put off surgery to wait for his title shot. Surgery on his ACL would likely take him out of the Jan. 3 fight.
“Now I reshift, I refocus, and I focus on the task at hand, which is fighting Jon Jones,” he said today. “It’s disappointing, but I’m a person that likes to look at the positive, and the positive is that I have a full training camp to get myself and my team together to get ready for a big fight like this.”
As to whether the fight will be as big as it could have been in September, Cormier hopes the delay gives fans a chance to get away from his rivalry with Jones outside the cage, which already has led to an all-out public melee, and focus on the upcoming matchup inside the cage.
“I think people recognize that it’s a big fight,” he said. “I think by January, people will understand, and maybe people will stop thinking about us fighting on stage or getting caught cussing each other when the cameras were on.
“You’ve got two of the best fighters in the world competing for the light heavyweight championship, so maybe it will let some of this time die down, people worrying about the stuff outside the cage and focus on the fact that in 37 fights, Jon Jones has not lost two rounds combined. But in terms of fan interest, people were excited about this fight, and I’m glad that they’re still going to get the fight.”