It was obvious late last month when Daniel Cormier returned to his seat with a cardboard box piled high with snack bar food while watching a Bellator MMA card at San Jose’s SAP Center.
If the UFC’s two-division champion was going to return to save UFC 230, it would be as a heavyweight, not a light-heavyweight.
So Cormier (21-1) has agreed to meet Derrick Lewis (21-5) on the Nov. 3 card in New York, the second-ranked heavyweight who scored a knockout victory Saturday at UFC 229 in Las Vegas.
The bout was first announced Tuesday by ESPN, which also quoted UFC President Dana White as saying he’ll take women’s flyweight Valentina Shevchenko off the New York main event she was to headline against an obscure opponent and shift her to the Dec. 8 Toronto card against former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, a former Muay Thai rival of Shevchenko.
By knocking out heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic in July in Las Vegas, Cormier joined Conor McGregor — who did it in 2016 — as the UFC’s only fighters to ever wear two division belts simultaneously.
Houston’s Lewis has won nine of his last 10 fights.
He was trailing big on all three scorecards when he let fly a massive right hand that crushed Russia’s Alexander Volkov square on the jaw, knocking him down, then battering him with finishing punches on the canvas, the last two coming with Volkov appearing to have slipped into unconsciousness.
Lewis’ appearance went viral when he dropped his shorts to reveal training underwear to interviewer Joe Rogan.
The repercussions of Cormier taking a heavyweight fight now will be interesting, given that former light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones becomes eligible to fight again after a drug suspension in late October, and wants a third fight with Cormier, while former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar is also eligible to return early next year.
The WWE’s Lesnar charged into the octagon in July and shoved Cormier, calling him out for a showdown once his own drug suspension time ends.
What matters most to the UFC is now.
By replacing Shevchenko’s originally scheduled main event against barely known Sijara Eubanks with Cormier-Lewis as the topper, a Madison Square Garden card traditionally packed with anticipated fights is far beefier since it already offered an expected lightweight slugfest between Nate Diaz and Dustin Poirier, and a rematch between former middleweight champions Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold, who trains with Cormier and lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in San Jose.