For the first time in UFC history, the light heavyweight and heavyweight champions of the promotion will square off in the Octagon. News has just leaked that 205-pound champ Daniel Cormier will move up in weight class to fight reigning heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic at UFC 226 in Las Vegas on July 7. The fight will anchor the UFC’s International Fight Week, and the two will serve as coaches for a season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Cormier and Miocic both just defended their belts against promising up-and-comers at UFC 226 on January 20, with Cormier TKOing Volkan Oezdemir in the second round and Miocic dominating Francis Ngannou for a decision win. UFC president Dana White said in the absence of other immediate challenges, he’d like to see the two champions face off, but Cormier seemed initially reluctant to return to heavyweight with his friend and training partner Cain Velasquez about to stage a comeback.
Maybe the UFC put enough money on the table to overcome that reluctance. Maybe Cormier will simply release the heavyweight belt after his win, since the UFC refuses to allow one man to hold two belts at once. Whatever the case, the fight has been locked in, and Cormier has a chance to become just the second man after Conor McGregor to be the ‘champ champ.’
The move comes at a time when the UFC seems more inclined to throw out their traditional booking strategy to chase big super-fights. Only once in over 20 years did they allow a champ from one division to face another: when lightweight champ B.J. Penn moved up to fight welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre.
Then, in 2016, Conor McGregor was allowed to move up from featherweight to challenge for the lightweight belt without even once defending his featherweight belt. Now the UFC is currently trying to book bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw against flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson, women’s bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes vs. women’s featherweight champ Cris Cyborg, and this now confirmed battle between Cormier and Miocic.
We’ll let you decide whether these big fights mark the beginning of an exciting time or the latest sign the UFC has lost its way. But you can’t argue the matches themselves are compelling and should result in fireworks in the cage.