If there is one person on earth who has every right to hate Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson’s guts, it’s Daniel Cormier.
That’s because Alexander’s eye-opening performance against current light-heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones at UFC 165 pretty much reduced the odds of Cormier getting an automatic title shot — when he eventually drops down to the 205-pound division — from guaranteed to virtually none.
Cormier was highly-hyped coming into the UFC with impressive victories against Antonio Silva, Josh Barnett, and Dion Staring. Daniel wasn’t as imposing during his UFC debut against Frank Mir, but even with the lackluster performance, Cormier’s status as the most intriguing matchup for Jones — who barely ever looked human inside the Octagon prior to his showdown with Gustafsson — was left unchanged.
That’s no longer the case heading into UFC 166, where Cormier will face Roy Nelson on Oct. 19 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. The Mauler is now the most-demanded opponent for Bones, and the drawing power of Jones vs. Gustafsson 2 far exceeds anything the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s brass can expect from a Jones vs. Cormier headliner.
Jones is currently scheduled to defend his title against Glover Teixeira next, and the longest-reigning light-heavyweight champion in UFC history has already made it clear Gustafsson will be next in line.
That means Cormier will likely have to settle for a tune-up fight in the light-heavyweight division, if his fight against Nelson is indeed his last bout in the heavyweight division.
That doesn’t mean Cormier won’t ask for a shot at the light-heavyweight title if he emerges victorious at UFC 166.
“Right now it’s Roy Nelson. Afterwards, we’ll see what happens,” Cormier said during an interview with Sherdog.com. “I still intend to ask the UFC to fight for the belt. If they say no, then I’ll fight at 205 pounds. It doesn’t matter.”
Of course, an exceptional performance at UFC 166 would increase Cormier’s odds of getting an immediate title shot at 205 pounds, but he can’t afford to get carried away. Nelson is a heavy-handed adversary who has a lot to gain if he pulls off an upset at UFC 166.
That reality isn’t lost on Cormier.
“My focus is completely on Roy Nelson because it’s all for nothing if I lose on October 19th. And I can’t,” Cormier added. “I’m not stupid. I know that Roy Nelson can beat me. I know Roy Nelson can knock me out. Roy Nelson can submit me. Roy Nelson can beat me by decision. There’s many ways for him to win this fight, so my sole focus is on him and everything else will go forward right after that.”