UFC Light Heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier recently bested Alexander Gustafsson for his first title defense.
Gustafsson is legitimately the only challenger that gave former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Jon “Bones” Jones a true problem. Cormier besting and even tossing Gustafsson on his head, despite being considerably shorter than Gustafsson, has finally cemented Cormier as a legitimate champion on the biggest stage in the sport.
The only real athletic test, past an intriguing wrestling match up interest against Ryan Bader, is a rematch with Jon Jones, which Cormier feels is destined to become an epic MMA trilogy.
That is his last remaining test as a champion athletically but what about morally and spiritually? When we begin to delve into lifestyle and marketing choices will Daniel Cormier be the black mixed martial arts fighter who will finally recognize and understand his bigger purpose to his own community?
Sports Entertainment isn’t fully legitimized until athletes are praised via an award show and U.K. based magazine publisher "Fighter’s Only Magazine" held its 7th Annual World MMA Awards last January 30th at The Venetian Theatre inside The Venetian Hotel & Casino.
The awards have differentiated themselves by hiring MMA comedic writers to produce funny video shorts where fighters lampoon themselves and the industry’s assortment of characters. For last year’s event they decided to parody Daniel Cormier’s notorious love for Popeye’s chicken.
Utilizing the melody and cadence of the pop culture hit, “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor, a shirtless Cormier danced in front of a colorful flashing background, colors replete with flying cupcakes and buckets of chicken reciting, “I’m all about that cake…and chicken.”
With those last two words all of his collegiate and Olympic wrestling credentials, undefeated record and overall good guy image faded into something a bit tarnished.
The majority of the world has been learning the prowess of Mr. Cormier since he lost to Jones then miraculously was given a second fateful chance, while Jones is on suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Committee.
However, this new world audience REALLY doesn't know about his character and any innocence attempted in this parody was lost and will never be found.
Award shows bestow respect and prominence to athletes, which can in turn generate more positive awareness, sponsorship dollars and larger purse amounts. If this is how Cormier wants to interact with his new found fan base, one that didn’t support him when he wasn't the UFC champion or a champion in other promotions, then he has yet again failed the black consumer base of MMA.
MMA has long misunderstood the black athlete and is still trying to forgive its ignorance in promoting to a fan base that at inception wasn’t there en masse.
Pundits and old head MMA fans will espouse how the urban and black demographic have little to do with MMA’s worldwide success but is that true for the future? With the Jon Jones' of the world being the new face of combat so will those who look up to an athlete in Jones' or Cormier’s position.
Allowing an attempt at parody to tarnish a spotless and otherwise conscientious black athlete’s reputation for the sake of MMA industry elation is unwise and Cormier would be better advised if he apologized and began taking the nouveau popular MMA corporate structure to task for their obvious racial insensitivity.
You see, this is not a Daniel Cormier bashing piece. We are actually big supporters of Cormier, featuring his inspiring story in our first episode of our successful "Driven" series.
And, in light of Stephen A. Smith’s recent neo face-off against Kevin Durant, one can see that it is fruitless for the media and its darlings to fuss publicly.
However, as a brother within combat and in spirit, I must pull his coat for what too often stems from a lack of cultural deference when promoting fighters of color in MMA. In boxing, perhaps because the sport is so antiquated, racial posturing is as simple as a “great white hope” versus an imposing black male stud. But MMA is still in its infancy so the connections aren't as formulated as of yet.
From the days of Jack Johnson, this polarization formula has always worked in this institutionally racist country and when the lights are as bright as they are for Daniel Cormier now, he should be mindful to remember that.
The same conditions in this country that can make you rich can also imprison you and the last thing we would hope is that Daniel Cormier would trade his assumed thoughtfulness for common buffoonery that generated more than just interest in the award show but also the ire of his admirers like me.
The Daniel Cormier who I know seeks to inspire and be an example of excellence in a crowded, tough-as-nails sport that usually leaves its participants used up and disgruntled. Cormier is our new beacon of hope that understands that in this proliferated media mind state a simple tweet can bring down one’s career and further alter a path that was originally slated for greatness.
Jon Jones was the first MMA fighter to secure not one but two blue chip sponsors (Nike & Reebok) and then subsequently lose them both within 8 months. A sloppy personal life led to these travesties and we excoriated Jones to no end for it.
Regurgitations of the chorus to O.T. Genasis’ cult hit, “Coco” was applied to Jones and the meme’s that followed were painful to view.
But they kept coming.
I challenge not only Daniel Cormier but also the fans who love sports for its ability to transform hate into love to show the same fervor when one of our own steps over the line, whether knowingly or unknowingly.
Unless we only care when its salaciousness promulgated by gossip that motivates us to judge our fighting stars.
Cormier, since winning the Light Heavyweight belt, has taken special cause to call out Jon Jones after his in-ring victory speeches, most notably telling the world via Joe Rogan that Jon Jones needs to ‘get his sh*t together,” after his win over Anthony Johnson.
I reiterate your words to you Mr. Cormier and not for your performance in or out the cage, but against those who offer you celebrity and promotion that we the people will never see.
Never let those familiar or unfamiliar with America’s continuing horror story to dress stereotypes up for sports sake. Make no mistake- if not rectified, this will be Cormier’s first REAL loss as his opponent in this battle will be himself.