UFC

Daniel Cormier: Beating Stipe Miocic puts me in same bracket as Michael Jordan and Peyton Manning

By Sports Desk August 14, 2020

Daniel Cormier believes his name will belong in the same bracket as Michael Jordan and Peyton Manning if he retires by winning back the UFC heavyweight title from Stipe Miocic on Saturday. 

Win or lose in the Las Vegas trilogy bout, Cormier (22-2-0) will go down as an all-time great in the mixed martial arts world, having reigned in the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions in UFC. 

Cormier it set to bid farewell to the fight game but says he should be considered alongside Chicago Bulls legend Jordan – a six-time NBA champion - and Manning, who retired a Super Bowl winner, if he can regain the belt he dropped to Miocic a year ago. 

"I think it puts you right alongside the greatest sports athletes of all time. Michael Jordan won with the Chicago Bulls when they beat the Utah Jazz, unfortunately he came back, I won't come back," he told a pre-fight news conference ahead of UFC 252. 

"Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl in his last season, it would put me in that type of sphere with some of the greatest athletes that have competed in any sport. So, when I win on Saturday, I will retire in that way." 

Cormier's legacy is without question, but a defeat would mean he ends his career with losing records against the two fighters who have also reigned in the same era - Miocic and Jon Jones. 

While admitting such a scenario would be damaging to his own ego, Cormier says he has earned the respect of his fellow professionals. 

"I'm a guy with a big ego and that would suck, I gotta be honest. To think there would be two guys in my career that were just better than me and I had multiple chances to beat them, it would suck," he added.  

"But Dana [White] didn't just go 'hey DC, you're a great guy I love you, fight for all these championships', I earned all these opportunities.

"So, all these tough guys I fight, again 10 title fights in a row, that's all earned, it's not because they like me. These guys aren't my friends to the point where they just give me championship fights.  

"I train, I fight and I win - that's why I continue to find myself in this position. But all this pressure is earned. The pressure of fighting a guy like Stipe Miocic, the pressure of fighting a guy like Jon Jones twice - when Jones beat me and he got in trouble I beat everyone else until he got back then I beat everybody else again until I fought Stipe.

"All this s***'s earned, man, it's not given and I think people need to recognise that." 

Miocic (19-3-0), who lost the first bout between the two back in July 2018, has no qualms with the focus being on his retiring opponent. 

"All good. He can take it all, man. It's all good. I don't mind it. Listen, good for him. I'm just going to hang out in the back," he said. 

"Thank God we're done with this. It's been great. We're done. Rubber match, everyone wants a trilogy, but when it's all said and done, it's going to be over.  

"I think it's always personal whenever you fight, because [your opponent is] trying to do something. They're trying to beat you. They're trying to take something away from you. 

"I've got no ill will towards the man and he's going to have a good retirement. God bless him, and I wish nothing but the best for him."

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  • 17 days in April: A Clasico World Series 17 days in April: A Clasico World Series

    Pep Guardiola had a simple message for the fans after becoming Barcelona head coach in 2008: "Fasten your seatbelts."

    In April 2011, the Catalan press recalled that promise of excitement as they previewed a once-in-a-generation event: four matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid, with three trophies at stake, in 17 days. A Clasico World Series. A defining run of fixtures where winning was everything and losing was unimaginable, with each side dreaming of celebrating a treble and terrified of watching the other do the same.

    More like fasten your bandoliers. This was war.

    On one side, the Barca of Guardiola, the man taking the coaching world by storm in his first senior post-playing job. A team built from La Masia, boasting some of the academy's greatest ever products: Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi. With the ball on their 'carousel', they were the pinnacle of possession-based attacking play, proof that technical accomplishment could triumph over brute force. They were chasing a second treble in three seasons, and under Guardiola, they had never lost a final.

    It could be said Madrid were afraid of this new Barca, and in their fear, they made a deal with the devil. In came Jose Mourinho, the man whose Inter thwarted Barca's attempts to play a Champions League final at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2010. His task was not so much to knock the Catalans off their perch, but to raze the perch to the ground. A league champion in Portugal, England and Italy, the mastermind of Inter's historic treble, with two of history's most expensive signings in Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka at his disposal, Mourinho's task was clear: stop Barca at all costs.

    For some, this went beyond the two best teams in the world going head-to-head for trophies. This was a meeting of minds, a clash of styles, a fight for football's very soul. And so, in the spring of 2011, the battle lines were drawn. On April 16, Barca were to host Madrid in La Liga. Four days later, they would meet neutrally at Valencia's Mestalla in the Copa del Rey final. Then came the biggest of all: a two-legged Champions League semi-final for the right to face Manchester United at Wembley.

    Seven goals, 167 fouls, 24 yellow cards and four reds later, Barca emerged as Champions League finalists and shoo-ins for the La Liga title. Madrid held the Copa del Rey.

    And neither team, nor coach, would ever be quite the same again.

    April 16, 2011: Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona

    The opening skirmish.

    With Barca leading La Liga by eight points heading into the match, having won 26 and drawn three of their previous 29 top-flight games, few realistically believed a defeat would see them throw away the title. This was more of a warm-up act for what was to come, and the chance for Madrid – and Mourinho – to prove they had learned from the reverse fixture: a 5-0 evisceration at Camp Nou in November.

    Certainly, there were changes. Madrid had just 33 per cent of the ball in the first game and that dropped to 24 per cent here, as they completed 234 passes to Barca's 791.

    And yet they carried a much greater threat than before: They had more shots than Barca (13-11) and six on target, both the most they managed in any Clasico that term. Even after going a goal and a man down – Messi scoring a penalty after Raul Albiol was sent off for fouling David Villa – they salvaged a point after Ronaldo buried a spot-kick of his own.

    Mourinho was starting to make his mark. Madrid committed 22 fouls, with Pepe accounting for five of them. Only Lassana Diarra conceded more free kicks in any of the four matches. There were seven bookings, five of them for Barca, whose frustrations with the Madrid approach were summed up neatly when Messi booted the ball into the stands. Only three players created more than one goalscoring chance: Xavi, Angel Di Maria… and Pepe.

    For Mourinho, Albiol's red card was key. Although his side snatched a draw, they seemed at the mercy of the Barca circulation machine: 10 of Guardiola's players managed more than 30 passes, including substitute Seydou Keita, while only Sami Khedira (31) did so for Madrid. Xavi, who made 144 on his own, would average 139 per game across the four encounters.

    "Eleven against 10 and it was practically mission impossible," said Mourinho. "Especially against a team that – with possession of the ball – are the best in the world."

    The title race was out of Madrid's hands. However, in a one-off contest, things looked different…

     

    April 20, 2011: Barcelona 0-1 Real Madrid

    "We knew that whoever scored first would win it," said Mourinho. "And so it proved."

    Ronaldo's 42nd goal of the season, a towering header from Di Maria's cross, was enough to decide a cup final spanning 120 gruelling minutes in Valencia. It was Ronaldo and Mourinho's first Madrid trophy, Guardiola's first final defeat, and an end to his dreams of a second treble.

    It was also a doubling-down by Mourinho on his pervading methods. Madrid allowed Barca 79 per cent of the ball with the Catalans' 901 passes nearly four times as many as their opponents managed. Concrete opportunities, again, were scarce: there were just four shots on target each from a total of 27.

    This time, Barca got sucked into the fight. They committed 24 fouls, their most in any Clasico that season, with each side earning three bookings apiece, and Di Maria was sent off in the dying moments. Their more combative approach neither improved Barca's play nor disrupted Madrid further; however, Los Blancos created nine chances in the contest, only one fewer than Barca, despite yielding so much of the possession.

    "Life is like that – you can't always win," Guardiola rued. "We can take them on over two games – we've just done that," goaded Mourinho. And the world waited for what would come next.

    April 27, 2011: Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona

    The drama started on the eve of the match when Guardiola finally snapped.

    His rant at Mourinho, "the f****** boss," was his most public display of anger, his patience exhausted by his opponent's needling. The final straw had been Mourinho describing Pep as a unique coach "that criticises referees when they get decisions right".

    In that explosive news conference delivered mostly to "Mourinho's camera", Guardiola promised: "Tomorrow, 8.45 p.m., we will take to the field and we will try to play football as best as possible."

    One man certainly did.

    Messi had struggled to exert huge influence in the first two games. He had only one shot on target in the cup final, for instance. He was harried, kicked and crowded out at the Santiago Bernabeu this time, and yet won only two free-kicks as Barca committed more fouls than their opponents for the first time. It seemed Mourinho's mind games were paying off.

    This, perhaps foreshadowed in the pregame build-up involving their managers, was the most ill-tempered, poisonous game of the lot. There were three red cards shown: one to Barca substitute Jose Pinto, one to Pepe for a foul on Dani Alves, and one to Mourinho for his sarcastic praise of the officials. Again, though, Madrid's 10 men looked capable of salvaging a result, until Messi was unleashed at last. His first was a relative tap-in, a close-range finish from Ibrahim Afellay's cross. It is a goal that is easily forgotten due to what came after. Busquets rolled the ball into his path, and Messi was off – away from Diarra, away from Albiol, beyond Marcelo, before squeezing a low finish past Iker Casillas.

    It was his 11th goal in 11 Champions League games, his 52nd of the season, and perhaps the greatest he has ever scored: for the occasion, the speed, the execution, the kicks that failed to stop him.

    May 3, 2011: Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid

    Everyone, it seemed, felt the tie was already over. Madrid decided to prioritise chasing Barca players over chasing the game, committing 30 fouls for the return of a single shot on target. At least nobody was sent off.

    Gonzalo Higuain thought he had given Madrid the lead, but it was disallowed for a foul by Ronaldo in the build-up. Marcelo cancelled out Pedro's eventual opener, but it was Barca who went through – and Madrid who went apoplectic.

    "We feel tricked by the officials," Casillas said afterwards.

    "Next year, they might as well give the cup to Barcelona," complained Ronaldo.

    Mourinho was facing possible punishment for suggesting referees favoured the Blaugrana, while both teams vowed to make official complaints to UEFA about the other.

    The battle was done, the hostilities over (on the pitch, at least). Crucially, though, the events of these matches hardened Mourinho's resolve. "Now I have more willingness to continue in charge of Real Madrid for what this means," he said. "This jersey is white, and white now has more significance."

     

    The aftermath

    Over those two spectacular weeks, the teams shared two draws and one win apiece. Barca, though, were the victors: a third league title in a row and a second Champions League triumph under Guardiola easily made up for losing the Copa final.

    Mourinho, however, would not lose the war.

    These games, and the 5-4 two-legged Supercopa de Espana defeat in August – one made infamous by Mourinho poking Barca assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye – showed the Portuguese the way to conquer Spain: disrupt Barca and destroy the rest. His players seemed galvanised, and they proved it.

    In 2010-11, Barca finished on 96 points, four ahead of Madrid. Interestingly, they only scored 95 goals to their rivals' 102, while conceding 12 goals fewer. They lost just two games to Madrid's four.

    Mourinho's response was to develop Madrid not into a team impossible to beat, but one that could barely stop winning. Records tumbled in 2011-12: 32 victories from 38 games, 121 goals scored, 100 points accrued. His Faustian pact with Madrid had paid off, but those vitriolic two campaigns took their toll. He has had three times as many job changes as league titles in the decade since.

    Barca also scored more that season: 114 times in the league overall, 50 of which came from Messi. Overall, though, their exceptional standards had slipped just enough. After three intense seasons under Guardiola and the brutality of El Clasico's rivalry, they just couldn't sustain it any longer. At the end of the season, Guardiola announced he was stepping down, admitting: "Four years is an eternity as Barca coach… I have nothing left."

  • Jordan to present Bryant at Basketball Hall of Fame induction Jordan to present Bryant at Basketball Hall of Fame induction

    Kobe Bryant once called Michael Jordan the ideal candidate to present him into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The late, great Los Angeles Lakers legend will get his wish.

    The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame announced its list of presenters for the 2020 class on Thursday, with Jordan named to present Bryant in a fitting posthumous tribute.

    The induction ceremony, delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, will take place on May 15 in Uncasville, Connecticut. Bryant was selected for induction as a first-year eligible in November, 10 months after he and his daughter, Gianna, died in a helicopter crash in California.

    Bryant called Jordan among his biggest influences during his 20-year playing career in which he compiled the fourth-highest points total in NBA history and led the Lakers to five championships, one less than his idol won with the Chicago Bulls. When asked by Complex magazine in a 2017 interview who he would want to enshrine him into the Hall of Fame, the 18-time All-Star quickly mentioned both Jordan and his former Lakers coach, Phil Jackson.

    Though their playing careers only overlapped by four years, Jordan and Bryant developed a lasting friendship that was evident when Jordan gave an emotional speech during Bryant's memorial service in February 2020.

    Jordan will also be presenting Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey during next month's ceremonies, while several other of his Hall of Fame contemporaries will be part of the festivities.

    Some of the other notable presenters include David Robinson, who will induct former San Antonio Spurs team-mate Tim Duncan. Isiah Thomas will present Kevin Garnett, while Hakeem Olajuwon will be the co-presenter for his former Houston Rockets coach, Rudy Tomjanovich, along with Rockets great Calvin Murphy.

    The full class of 2020 inductees consists of Bryant, Mulkey, Duncan, Garnett, Tomjanovich, long-time FIBA executive Patrick Baumann, former WNBA star Tamika Catchings, former Division II national champion coach Barbara Stevens and ex-college coach Eddie Sutton.

  • If Harry Kane wants to leave Spurs, it's now or never – Shearer If Harry Kane wants to leave Spurs, it's now or never – Shearer

    Harry Kane's future at Tottenham is shrouded in doubt and former England striker Alan Shearer believes it is now or never if he does want to leave.

    Kane has never been shy about expressing his desire to win trophies at Tottenham, calling that the "next step" when the club moved to their new stadium from White Hart Lane.

    Spurs flirted with that possibility under Mauricio Pochettino, finishing second in the 2016-17 Premier League season and reaching the final of the Champions League two years later.

    But under Jose Mourinho they are going backwards, with Spurs seventh in the league and six points adrift of fourth-placed West Ham, meaning Champions League qualification may elude them.

    Kane has proven himself as one of Premier League's all-time greatest strikers, with his haul of 162 goals bettered by only seven players, while his 121.8 minutes per goal is the third best among those to have netted at least 100 times.

    But recent media speculation has suggested Kane is losing patience, and Shearer – who famously joined Newcastle United over Manchester United in search of trophies and failed to win any – thinks he may not get another opportunity to take his career to the next level.

    Writing in his column for The Athletic, Shearer said: "I've got way too much respect for Harry as a player and a man to offer him advice on a decision that I know for myself is rarely linear and that may not, in the end, be his to make. What I would say, though, is this: if he's going to leave, it looks like this summer or not at all.

    "Harry is 28 in three months and this is why I think we're approaching a pivotal moment. He's at his peak, the ready-made article, an absolute guarantee of goals wherever he plays and the opposite of a gamble, but a buying club is going to want three or four of his best years in return for what would certainly be an exorbitant transfer fee. This is that time. Twelve months down the line and it becomes that bit more difficult to justify.

    "The one indisputable fact is that Harry is under contract at Tottenham for three more years. That six-year deal he signed in June 2018 was a fantastic piece of business by Daniel Levy and his club.

    "It tied down their most saleable asset and it gives them a thick layer of protection now. I'm not convinced it was quite so great for Harry, even though the landscape at Spurs was much more positive back then.

    "The point is that Harry could no longer say the same things about winning the Premier League [as he did in 2018]. Would the picture change at Spurs if Mourinho went? Maybe.

    "As Leicester City and West Ham show, a place in the top four is open to clubs that get things right, but in terms of more than that? Spurs look a long way off. And so that leads back to the same question: is it enough?"

    Shearer routinely insists he has no regrets over choosing to join Newcastle instead of going to Old Trafford 1996, despite the Red Devils going on to win the Premier League title in four of the following five years, including their historic 1999 treble that included Champions League success.

    For his part, Shearer went on to become Newcastle and the Premier League's record goalscorer, feats he treasures, and Kane appears on course to accomplish similar achievements with Spurs.

    But if it is trophies rather than personal accolades that Kane thirsts for, Shearer can see only one option – not that there is ever a guarantee of success, regardless of whether he ends up at United, Manchester City, Real Madrid or Barcelona.

    "When I moved to Newcastle for a world-record fee in 1996, I did so with the aim of winning trophies. That was the driver for me, as well as the pull of coming home," he continued.

    "It didn't work out like that, of course, but for most of my decade at St James' Park and with lots of ups and downs on the way, we were trying.

    "Harry is a big player; he won't accept staying at Spurs for the sake of it. He has to have something to buy into. Right now, winning means leaving.

    "None of that means Harry should leave; to repeat, that's not something I would ever say, but if we judge him on his words from two or three years ago, then it's certainly a subject he will be considering now.

    "If it ends with no trophies, does that mean hell have had a s*** career? No, of course not. All that said, the great players do not settle. They always want more and they push for it. And Harry is a great player, which is why it feels like he and Spurs are approaching a moment of definition."

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