Lightweight contender Islam Makhachev continued his impressive winning streak this past weekend, submitting Dan Hooker in the first round of UFC 267. It was a wholly dominant performance from Makhachev, who was hit with only four significant strikes, and had fans wondering when Makhachev would finally get to challenge for the title. But despite the one-sidedness of the fight, the bout was not without controversy, not from Makhachev’s performance, but from the mic work of his longtime teammate Daniel Cormier.
Following the bout, questions arose about whether Cormier should be allowed to call fights for his teammates. Specifically, lightweight contender Justin Gaethje spoke out on Twitter about Cormier showing bias towards Makhachev, an accusation Cormier vehemently denies.
“How could I be biased to Islam?” Cormier said on Debate DC on Vover. “What could I have possibly said positive about Dan Hooker in that fight? There is no bias whenever a fight is clearly on one side. That’s where it becomes a bit much for me and that’s when you start to understand and realize why the people from the outside, their opinions don’t matter as much because they make those types of claims.”
However, Gaethje’s issues with Cormier’s work do not stem from his in-fight commentary as Cormier suggested, but from his post-fight interview. Following the bout, Cormier spoke with Makhachev in the cage and pointedly asked his teammate, ‘Why should you fight for a championship as opposed to the winner of (Michael) Chandler vs. Justin Gaethje?” And given his relationship with Makhachev, the nature of the question rubbed Gaethje the wrong way, calling it ‘incredibly biased’. Again though, Cormier does not believe he has done anything wrong, not just last weekend, but for any of the numerous times over the years that he has commentated on his teammates’ fights.
“I don’t mind addressing this whole bias thing,” Cormier said. “I think it’s absurd. I don’t agree at all. I think it’s absurd and if you ask me if I am biased towards Islam Makhachev or Khabib Nurmagomedov – guys, I have called Khabib’s fights, Luke Rockhold, Deron Winn, Islam Makhachev, I’ve called all of their fights and I feel like I have done their opponents justice. I go out of my way to make sure that we do their opponents justice. I’m a professional and for as much as I love my teammates, I understand the difference to separate myself from that….
““Look man, if you’re not getting critiqued then you’re not doing a great job.”
Admitting that he “goes out of his way” to do something when his teammates compete is perhaps not the best defense to accusations of bias, however, Cormier does not have long to consider such things this weekend he will serve in the booth for Gaethje’s fight with Chandler at UFC 268