The two former college wrestlers will meet in the Octagon for the Ultimate Fighting Championships title at UFC 178 in Las Vegas September 27, the UFC announced Wednesday.
Cormier is stepping in to replace Jones’ original UFC 178 opponent, Alexander Gustafsson, who injured his knee in training.
Cormier knows all too well how a knee injury can derail title bout plans.
Originally, Cormier thought he would fight Jones after the former Oklahoma State All-American wrestler and two-time Olympian choked out Dan Henderson at UFC 173 in May. However, after that win, Cormier learned that a knee injury suffered training for that fight was more serious than originally thought, and would require surgery.
With that in mind, Cormier decided he’d go under the knife after wrestling former Oklahoma State teammate Chris Pendleton in an exhibition match at UFC 175 Fan Fest on July 5. However, the surgery plans changed when Gustafsson’s own knee injury was revealed… especially when a UFC title is the prize.
“Ever the warrior, Cormier has decided to forego the knee surgery to repair the LCL injury he sustained which was going to force him out of action for several months,” wrote Stan Safrenek of MMANews.com. “He has stated that he is ‘good to go’ but one must wonder how true that is.”
Jones’ last fight was in April. At UFC 172, the champ defended his title with a unanimous decision over Glover Teixerira.
Both Cormier and Jones bring amateur wrestling experience into the Octagon.
Cormier, 15-0 in mixed martial arts competition, was a two-time NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) champ at Colby Community College in Kansas. The Louisiana native then transferred to Oklahoma State, where he earned NCAA All-American honors as a finalist at the 2001 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, losing to current Penn State coach Cael Sanderson in the 184-pound title match. In addition to his collegiate credentials, Cormier earned a place on the U.S. men’s freestyle team for the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
Jones, 20-1 in MMA, won a New York State high school title in 2005. The native of Rochester, N.Y. then headed west, enrolling at Iowa Central Community College, where he won a NJCAA title. Jones was also a Greco-Roman All-American, according to his biography at his official website.