LAS VEGAS — Forever a bridesmaid in the annals of UFC history entering Saturday, Daniel Cormier finally said “I do” to immortality.

Cormier, the UFC’s light heavyweight titleholder, moved back up to heavyweight to score a first-round knockout of champion Stipe Miocic and firmly entered the conversation of greatest fighter in mixed martial arts history.

While talk inside the Octagon at T-Mobile Arena following the main event of UFC 226 quickly shifted to the pro wrestling theatrics of Brock Lesnar’s surprise entrance and talk of yet another heavyweight super fight later this year, let’s be quick not to look past what Cormier (21-1, 1 NC) has accomplished.

The 39-year-old became just the fifth fighter in UFC history to win titles in multiple weight divisions and just the second, alongside Conor McGregor, to do so simultaneously. He also knocked cold the reigning “baddest man on the planet” in Miocic (18-3), who was hoping to cement his own coronation as the promotion’s best heavyweight champion in history.

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Instead, it was the pudgy, 5-foot-11 Cormier who tripped over a speaker two days earlier that finally removed the stigma which was destined to one day follow him into the UFC Hall of Fame as an all-time great fighter who succeeded despite routinely failing when the stakes were highest.

From his amateur wrestling days in the NCAA championships and the Olympics to his bitter 205-pound title feud with Jon Jones, Cormier has long been forced to play second fiddle on the elite level. Many, in fact, refused to accept his light heavyweight title reign for how impressive it really was largely because he never beat Jones.

But just shy of one year after he infamously cried in the cage at UFC 214 after Jones concussed him via head-kick knockout in their long-awaited rematch, Cormier has dramatically repaired how history will remember him with one fight in a way that no one outside of Michael Bisping can understand.

It took a failed post-fight steroid test from Jones and continued injuries to his good friend and former champion Cain Velasquez for the door of opportunity to re-open for Cormier at heavyweight. But when it did, he didn’t just enter, he kicked the door in by absorbing a series of hard punches from the knockout artist Miocic and beating him at his own game.

“I am 39 years old and I have been second a lot of times but today I finally accomplished everything,” Cormier said. “From crying in this very same Octagon last year almost a year to the day to becoming the UFC champion. It is the most amazing thing I have ever experienced.”

Cormier recorded the only victory capable of removing the Jones-sized hole in his legacy. And with his second loss to Jones overturned to a No Contest, and the first possibly needing an asterisk since it came before the USADA era of stringent drug tests, it’s not out of the question that Cormier was also able to pass his hated rival in the terms of how they are ranked historically because of the fact that he did it cleanly.

Comparing fighters from different eras and making definitive judgments as to who is truly the greatest is never an exact science. But regardless of whether DC was able to leapfrog the likes of Jones, Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre and Demetrious Johnson in the eyes of critics as the G.O.A.T., he at the very least sealed his fate as nothing short of a folk hero.

Cormier has always worn his heart on his sleeve after coming to the sport late and proving himself a natural from the very beginning. He has been a great friend to Velasquez, a true role model for children and an ambassador for both the sport and the promotion during a time where many pay-per-view stars used trash talking and negative qualities to sell themselves.

Instead, Cormier is the champion UFC fans have always deserved and he has done so in two separate divisions. Whether or not he defeats Lesnar or ever sees a trilogy fight with Jones before his self-imposed retirement deadline next March, Cormier is the kind of legend who no longer needs an asterisk.

And that’s an increasingly rare distinction that is worthy of being celebrated.

For full results from UFC 226, check out our results page.


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