The UFC light-heavyweight champion faces the former champion in the most important fight of the year
A story of revenge versus redemption, good versus evil, old versus young – the antagonistic narratives don’t end there but Daniel Cormier versus Jon Jones 2 is undoubtedly the most important fight this year.
The long-time animosity between these two warring light-heavyweights will reach – well, hopefully reach – some sort of climax at UFC 214 next weekend.
And that is said with a caveat because we’ve been here before, days out from the most anticipated rematch in UFC history only to see it scrapped, our hopes for a conclusion dashed.
Indeed, Jones and Cormier have been metaphorically joined at the hip since 2010 – metaphorical of course because in reality any time they are within each other’s air space they invariably turn it blue.
They are two characters juxtaposed yet inseparable, both at the centre of each other’s narratives, married by their hostility and a common detestation.
But the authenticity of their rivalry is rare, even for a sport built on aggression, so few have experienced the tangible heat of Jones and Cormier.
The feud hasn’t decayed despite two cancelled rematches following Jones’ dominant decision victory in their first bout back in 2015.
In fact, after another cooling off period in the wake of the former champ’s year-long suspension for a failed drugs test three days before UFC 200, the bad blood is boiling again.
“I am the champion,” said Cormier during a joint interview with Jones during the broadcast of Saturday’s UFC on Fox 25. “I’m going to remain the champion next week and I can finally put this chapter in a long, storied career behind me.”
Does the chapter end with respect for one another? Jones replied: “F*** DC.”
Cormier laughed then explained: “I have no desire to be friends with him. In terms of respect for his abilities, sure. He’s a great fighter, I’ve always said he’s a great fighter.
“But every time going forward we see each other, there’s still going to be issues. Because either I’m gonna smack him upside his head or something is gonna happen.
“We’re not gonna be friends and we’re never gonna be able to be in the same space, because there are always gonna be issues. Because he’s a punk.”
That resentful exchange is one of many but each one has built what is now the biggest rivalry in UFC history.
While the faux feud between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather dominates the combat sport landscape right now, Jones and Cormier deserves its own mainstream attention.
It’s personal, physical and passionate and it’s just what the UFC needs. Indeed, 2017 has been distinctive in its ordinariness. Injuries have ravaged cards and big name players have been out of the game.
But UFC 214’s main event has all the ingredients required to cure their ailments. Jones is No1, arguably the best to do it, Cormier the champion in his rear-view mirror.
DC has tightened up his game and has looked unshakable in Jones’ absence but his inactivity provides a new layer of intrigue behind the war of words.
From a physical standpoint, this fight is blessed with skill and strategy.
Has Cormier made the necessary changes? Will he let the emotions envelop him again? What version of Jones will we see?
All these questions form part of the foundation for what is the most significant bout of the year.
Let’s just hope they can answer them in the cage because the UFC can’t afford for them not to.