In Face Of Criticism, ‘Rumble’ & Cormier Shoot Down ‘Paper Champion’ Talk

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Headlining one of the more stacked UFC cards of the year at May 23’s UFC 187, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson and Daniel Cormier were recently forced into their respective roles on the blockbuster pay-per-view (PPV) from Las Vegas, Nevada.

Johnson was already set to headline the card against former champion Jon Jones but Cormier got an unlikely shot at the belt when ‘Bones’ was stripped of the title following a felony arrest for his alleged hit-and-run accident on a 25-year-old pregnant Albuquerque, New Mexico woman.

It came as a shocking development that was the latest and most impactful in a long and sordid history of outside the cage incidents for Jones, who was seemingly the only one who could stop himself as the most talented mixed martial artist in the world.

The enigmatic and troubled champion has been indefinitely suspended by the UFC as he sorts through his legal troubles, and his manager Malki Kawa recently stated that he didn’t know if Jones would actually return to the cage.

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But speaking during today’s UFC 187 media conference call, Cormier voiced his opinion that he does think Jones will return, and he understandably would like another shot at him after dropping a decision in their pivotal fight at January’s UFC 182:

“I think he will. I think he’ll be back. This is what he does. Jon Jones is a fighter and I don’t think he would want to walk away from the sport because of the circumstances.

“Me personally, do I care if he comes back? I would love to fight him again, but that’s really his decision. I’m not gonna beg him to come back. He can come back if he wants to.”

In the meantime, however, he and ‘Rumble’ are going to have to battle it out for the belt in 10 days’ time, a belt that many have cried is a ‘paper’ one given that the dominant Jones never lost it in the Octagon. To that, ‘Rumble’ takes offense, noting that neither he nor Cormier forced Jones to do what he supposedly did:

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“It’s almost like they see us as some chumps or something like that. We didn’t make Jon do what he did. That was his own doing. We’re athletes. We’re top of the food chain right now.

“Whoever wins this title is not the paper champion. We’re the champion of this weight class. We’re No. 1. We’re the best.”

The surging power hitter has a good point, yet that shadow of doubt will always be cast over the winner until ‘Bones’ comes back and they fight him. There’s no telling when that will be or if it will even happen, and there’s definitely no telling what kind of shape Jones will be in when he returns.

Acknowledging the reality of the situation, ‘DC’ said it was obvious that it’d be better if they had beaten Jones. But at the end of the day, no matter who wins at UFC 187, he and ‘Rumble’ will be at the pinnacle of MMA nonetheless:

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“We are where we’re supposed to be. Would it help to beat Jones? Yes. But under the circumstances I’m not sure it would do that much to change public perception, because I believe people believe what they want to believe and it doesn’t matter what you do.

“It doesn’t matter who wins this belt next weekend, people will say what they want. But the thing for me and Anthony to do is hold that belt high and be proud of the accomplishments that we will achieve next weekend, because there are so many people in the world that will never, ever reach that level.”

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports