UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier said he turned down a rematch against Stipe Miocic because of concerns his broken right hand had not properly healed.
"(UFC) asked me a few weeks ago and I didn't know if my hand was going to be OK," Cormier told The Associated Press on Thursday. "Also, because of the respect I have for Stipe, I really kind of wanted a longer training camp. I know the amount of work I put in to prepare for him last time. I don't know that in five weeks if I would have the amount of time to prepare for him this time."
Cormier (21-1, 1 no-contest) added the UFC heavyweight championship — and suffered a broken hand — to his light heavyweight title in July when he defeated Miocic at UFC 226. Miocic tweeted this week that he wanted a rematch, writing, "I've been staying up all night with my new born daughter and I still offered to fight you nov 3 with ZERO camp weeks ago."
The 39-year-old Cormier instead will defend the title against Derrick Lewis in the main event of UFC 230 on Nov. 3 against Madison Square Garden. Lewis, who has won three straight fights, just won a bout last weekend against Alexander Volkov in Las Vegas.
Lewis will fight weeks after he took 129 significant strikes (78 to the head) in his win against Volkov.
"Stipe's a guy that is known his cardio, being able to go five hard rounds," Cormier said. "Derrick presents different challenges, but him pushing an insane pace on me isn't really one of them."
Cormier, who said his hand is now healed, still has a short list of dream opponents to fight before his self-imposed retirement next year.
Lewis wasn't one of them.
But the chance for Cormier to defend his championship a legacy arena like MSG and the riches that will come because UFC sweetened the purse to make it worth his while to fight was too much to pass up.
"They made it so good that it was difficult to turn away," Cormier said.
Even with Lewis on deck, Cormier said he's firm on his timetable to retire next year when he turns 40 in March. He still wants a dream bout with former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar (who is still working for WWE), Miocic and career nemesis Jon Jones before he calls it quits.
"Lesnar, Miocic and Jones are the only three guys I kind of interested in fighting right now," he said. "Lesnar because it's a massive fight. Jones because it's me and Jon Jones. Miocic because he deserves a rematch. He does. I'm not going to sit here and pretend he doesn't. If for some reason the Lesnar fight doesn't happen, I will fight Stipe because he deserves it."
Cormier has never lost to anyone except Jones, the star-crossed former light heavyweight champion who beat him twice. The second bout last year was changed to a no-contest when Jones failed a doping test that kept him out of the sport.
Cormier will be stripped of his light heavyweight title and the 205-pound crown will go to the winner of the Jones-Alexander Gustafsson bout at UFC 232 on Dec. 29 in Las Vegas. Cormier said he understood UFC's decision to take away his title — but it was crushing to know Jones will fight for the belt.
"It kind of sucks it's going to be him," Cormier said. "But I understand the organization having to move on. They said they won't strip me until those guys start the fight, so I'll be able to be a double champ for five months, six months. The fight was made with some concessions."
Cormier said UFC told him if he wanted a 205-title shot against the winner, he'll get one.
"That makes it a little bit easier to accept," Cormier said.
Heavyweight title fights are rare, and Lewis was eager to jump in on short notice riding a three-fight winning streak and nine of 10 overall.
"He's a dangerous, dangerous opponent," Cormier said.
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