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Daniel Cormier: Jon Jones three wins away from being ‘greatest fighter we’ve ever seen’

Cormier sizes up champion a month before his light heavyweight debut

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Associated Press

Daniel Cormier, right, punches Frank Mir during the third round of a UFC heavyweight mixed martial arts fight in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, April 20, 2013. Cormier won by unanimous decision. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Wednesday's UFC Fight Night 35 from Duluth, Ga.

  • Middleweight bout: Luke Rockhold vs. Costa Philippou
  • Middleweight bout; Lorenz Larkin vs. Brad Tavares
  • Bantamweight bout: T.J. Dillashaw vs. Mike Easton
  • Middleweight bout: Yoel Romero vs. Derek Brunson
  • Flyweight bout: John Moraga vs. Dustin Ortiz
  • Featherweight bout: Cole Miller vs. Sam Sicilia
  • Lightweight bout: Ramsey Nijem vs. Justin Edwards
  • Lightweight bout: Isaac Vallie-Flagg vs. Elias Silverio
  • Middleweight bout: Trevor Smith vs. Brian Houston
  • Flyweight bout: Alptekin Ozkilic vs. Louis Smolka
  • Lightweight bout: Vinc Pichel vs. Garrett Whiteley
  • Lightweight bout: Charlie Brenneman vs. Beneil Dariush
  • How to watch: Final 10 fights aired on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 2 p.m. First two bouts stream on UFC Fight Pass.

One of the biggest questions looming over the UFC is how close Jon Jones is to surpassing Anderson Silva as the greatest fighter of all-time and when the light heavyweight champion will have done enough to merit the distinction.

One of Jones’ most bitter rivals believes he has the answer. The UFC’s newest light heavyweight contender, former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, says Jones needs to defeat him, Glover Teixeira and Alexander Gustafsson again to ascend to that status.

“If he does that, after the guys he’s been through, he’ll be the greatest fighter we’ve ever seen,” Cormier said last week at a media event to promote UFC 170.

The UFC incidentally announced Jones’ next fight shortly after. The champion will attempt to defend his belt for the seventh time on April 26 in Baltimore against Teixeira in the main event of UFC 172.

It’s assumed a runback of Jones’ Fight of the Year against Gustafsson, provided he can defeat heavy underdog Jimi Manuwa at UFC Fight Night 38 on March 8 in London, would follow. The undefeated Cormier argues a win over Rashad Evans at UFC 170 should make him the rightful top contender, but ultimately thinks the order of Jones’ foes makes no difference.

“He’s going to fight Teixeira, then me and Gustafsson or Gustafsson and me,” Cormier said. “He’s going to have to get through all three of us.”

Jones wouldn’t necessarily agree. Asked by a fan recently on Twitter about the trio of fights, Jones hinted that he thought Evans would defeat Cormier to precipitate a rematch of UFC 145.

The dismissal was yet another instance of Jones showing disdain for Cormier. The two have bickered through media ever since Cormier began discussing dropping down to the 205-pound weight class more than a year ago.

Cormier immediately began calling out Jones, who feigned indifference and questioned the former Olympian’s credentials.

“He likes to mess with me and then I mess with him,” Cormier said. “I think a little more is made of it than it is, but it’s not about him. It’s about that belt. If at some point he loses that belt, he becomes a memory.”

Jones is cognizant enough of his developing legacy to realize Cormier makes a valid point. The champion would be at 17 fights and 16 wins in the UFC, with the one loss being an erroneous disqualification in a bout he was dominating, if he reeled off three straight victories starting in April.

Silva won 16 in a row in the UFC before Chris Weidman unseated him last summer. But Jones’ slate of competition, which famously included five former champions in his first five title fights, would put Silva’s to shame. And Jones, who turns 27 in July, will likely have the chance to win three more before his 28th birthday.

Cormier’s impressed, but not intimidated. By his estimation, Jones can’t become the best without defeating him.

“I always try to prepare for the very best guy in the world,” Cormier said. “Jon is my obsession because he has that title. If he didn’t have that title, I (wouldn't) give a damn what Jon Jones was doing.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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