It has the makings of a buddy show until they enter the octagon.
The UFC announced Friday that its light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier will move up to fight Stipe Miocic for his heavyweight title July 7 at UFC 226 at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, a bout that will be built up by their participation as coaches on the new season of “The Ultimate Fighter”.
If Cormier wins, he would join Conor McGregor as the only UFC fighters to simultaneously hold belts in two divisions.
Cleveland’s Miocic (18-2) became the first UFC heavyweight champion to successfully defend his belt for a third time when he convincingly defeated No. 1 contender Francis Ngannou by unanimous decision Jan. 20 in Boston. On the same card, Cormier (20-1) stopped challenger Volkan Oezdemir in the second round to retain his belt.
Cormier and Miocic were complementary stars throughout the buildup to that UFC 220 card, but now that they’ve effectively dominated their divisions, the time was right for them to meet each other in the UFC 226 main event.
Cormier previously stood as a Strikeforce heavyweight champion, but switched to light-heavyweight to avoid fighting his San Jose stablemate Cain Velasquez.
LOMACHENKO MOVING UP: Promoter Bob Arum said Friday that his super-featherweight world champion boxer Vasyl Lomachenko will move up to lightweight for his next fight, likely on April 28.
Arum said Saturday night’s winner at the Forum between World Boxing Assn. lightweight champion Jorge Linares and Mercito Gesta, and Ray Beltran, should he win the vacant World Boxing Organization version Feb. 16 in Reno, are the most likely foes.
“We’re going to get the best opponent available for him,” Arum said. “Linares is terrific. I like that fight, because a lot of people think Linares will be the favorite as the more experienced guy, being a good ring technician and throwing a hell of a shot.”
Lomachenko, the Boxing Writers Assn. of America fighter of the year, has stopped four consecutive opponents on their stools, including Cuba’s previously unbeaten Guillermo Rigondeaux last month.
PACQUIAO RETURN MATERIALIZING: Arum said he has reserved April 14 at Madison Square Garden for a possible Manny Pacquiao comeback fight after the Filipino star, who’s held titles in eight divisions, lost his welterweight belt by upset to Australia’s Jeff Horn in July.
“If we bring Manny back, it would have to be on pay-per-view,” Arum said. “I don’t want to talk about any opponents right now because we have to get everything squared away with Manny’s people.”
Fighters including former 140-pound champions Amir Khan and Mike Alvarado have been mentioned as possible Pacquiao opponents.
LOSS TO BUILD ON: Derek Brunson has learned from his losses to climb back to the UFC’s No. 8 middleweight spot for a rematch with Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in the main event of Saturday night’s Charlotte card on Fox (begins at 5 p.m. PST).
If Brunson can avenge a 2012 loss, he’d be in position to challenge the winner of the Feb. 10 UFC 221 interim middleweight title fight between former champion Luke Rockhold and Cuba’s Yoel Romero, another man who has defeated power-punching Brunson (18-5).
“It’s about my preparation … I know his jiu-jitsu skills, but I’ve seen it before and I’ve become a lot better at realizing what’s going on, looking at where the hips are moving and all that,” said Brunson, who hails from Wilmington, N.C. “I’ve fought a third-degree black belt since Jacare, and I was able to keep punching and get the TKO.”