Daniel Cormer was helping teammates Mo Lawal and Luke Rockhold prepare for their Sept. 10 bouts when he was given the opportunity of a lifetime. Alistair Overeem had dropped out of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, and Cormier was being asked to step in and fight Antonio Silva. For Cormier, taking the fight with Silva was a no-brainer.
"Obviously, I had no reservations. I'm a person who thinks things through, and when I weighed out the positives and negatives, there was no reason for me to not take the fight," Cormier told Cagewriter.
It's a leap up in competition for the undefeated Cormier. His last bout was a unanimous decision over journeyman heavyweight Jeff Monson. With Overeem's withdrawal, the tournament has lost one of its biggest names, but that doesn't bother Cormier.
"People are saying that the tournament means nothing because Overeem is out, it's the biggest thing in my life. When I first saw the tournament started, I thought it was the greatest collection of heavyweights in one bracket. I still get to fight some of the best heavyweights in the world, and if I string this together, I think it validates me as a mixed martial artist."
Though Silva has Cormier beat on size -- "Big Foot" is six inches taller -- Cormier says that he has other advantages to neutralize Silva's size.
"I'm faster than he is, I'm more athletic and a better wrestler, and I think I'm a pretty decent mixed martial artist. I've gotten better to the point that I think I'm ready to compete with the best guys in the world. I won't know how far I am in this journey until I do test myself with someone like that."
The tournament concept is nothing new to Cormier. As a two-time Olympic wrestler, tournaments have ruled his athletic career.
"In wrestling, everything was tournament-based. It's not like I haven't had to set my mind for a tournament before. I'll just draw back on my wrestling experience, the Olympics, U.S. Nationals, world team trials, every other tournament I've been in my whole life. I've been going to tournaments since I was seven."
Because of that Olympic pedigree, it's hard to think of Cormier as anything but a wrestler. Two years into his MMA career, he does believe he is on the right path.
"I'm on my way to becoming a full-fledged mixed martial artist. I spend a lot of times covering all disciplines of MMA. With the Monson fight, I was fighting someone much more experienced than me, and I was able to outstrike him. At the same time, I don't ever want the Olympic tag to be lifted from my name. I worked my whole life for that. No matter what I do in my life, I will always be an Olympian."
Beyond beating Silva, he still has plenty of goals to meet as a fighter.
"At some point, I'm going to be considered one of the best fighters in the world. My drive and determination are going to push me in that direction."