Daniel Cormier stood triumphantly in the octagon after forcing Anthony "Rumble" Johnson into submission early Sunday morning in the main event of Ultimate Fighting Championship 210 when Joe Rogan mentioned Jon Jones as a possible opponent for his next light heavyweight title fight.
"Who?" Cormier said. "Who?"
Cormier is an intelligent guy and part-time UFC analyst well versed in the who-what-where-when-why formula of a good story. He had the championship belt over his shoulder while taunting Jones, the suspended former champion who was standing a few rows away from the octagon.
Yeah, that's who.
"What," of course, was another title fight. "Where" and "when" will be answered soon enough, likely after the 38-year-old recovers from months of training for his fight with Johnson and the broken nose he suffered in the bout Sunday. He's getting married May 28 and has the luxury to take time off.
The most important question in the next chapter of his career is "why." Cormier already defended his title. He has made enough money to live comfortably and support his family for the rest of his life. He's inching closer to retirement and joked in the octagon about walking away after Johnson announced that his career was over.
Cormier isn't hanging up his gloves for one reason above all others: He needs to settle an old score with Jones, the only man to beat him in his career. Jones' suspension for violating the UFC substance-abuse policy ends in July. Cormier is the champion and wants a rematch on his own terms. It should happen at some point.
Two months ago, while standing outside Starbucks across the street from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, Cormier acknowledged his need to overcome the demons Jones imposed upon him two years earlier in Las Vegas. Jones' unanimous decision has haunted Cormier since that fight.
"People, they don't see the competitiveness inside of me," Cormier said Sunday morning about two hours after the fight. "I love this stuff, man. I've made a lot of money. I have security financially. I've done everything you can do in this sport. The only thing I have not done is beat Jon Jones."
Cormier's victory Sunday morning outlined his experience in the octagon considering Johnson looked far more prepared to rumble. Nearly all UFC fighters look like they walked off the set of a great-abs infomercial, but Cormier needed two attempts on two scales before seeing 205 pounds in preparation for the main event.
It didn't matter once he climbed into the octagon and latched onto Johnson, neutralizing his devastating punching power working to his strengths. Cormier is one of the great grapplers and was more than willing to oblige when Johnson abandoned his prefight strategy and engaged in a wrestling match.
Johnson won the first round before getting twisted around and succumbing with 1:20 remaining in the second round of the five-round main event. Cormier put him away with a rear-naked choke hold, bringing an abrupt conclusion to Johnson's career and a strange evening before 17,100 fans in KeyBank Center.
"I want to do something different than going to the gym, punching, kicking and rolling around with another dude," said Johnson, who announced his retirement immediately after the match. "That gets old, you know what I mean?"
For Cormier, who has an 18-1 record, it's time to revisit an old and heated rivalry. Jones was the former champion, and the people's champion, before he was handed a one-year suspension. The Rochester native is considered the Muhammad Ali of the UFC, one of the biggest names and most popular figures in the sport.
Cormier has enough reasons to fight Jones. The two share a genuine disdain for one another and have talked smack for years. Cormier first needs to regain his motivation to get back in the gym and get in better shape if he wants to beat Jones, who was banned after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Cormier showed up for his fight against Johnson looking like a beer-league softball player with flab hanging over his waistline. He needed to remove his clothing to get under the weight limit. He later admitted afterward that he lacked discipline with his diet and let his weight get away from him.
"I've got to do better," Cormier said. "I was making 205 so easy before, and I had a good nutritionist. My guy now, he's better. He's the best nutritionist I've ever had in my life, but I've allowed myself to get too big. I'm getting too fat. I've got to be a little more disciplined in my down time to continue fighting in this weight division."
Cormier won their meeting two years ago after withstanding a heavy right early, wearing down Johnson and forcing him into submission with a chokehold. Johnson since that fight turned into a dangerous fighter. He decided to retire before his fight against Cormier and appeared to lose his edge during the fight.
Mixed-martial arts can be a brutal sport, but UFC fighters are brutally honest. Cormier repeatedly delivered verbal jabs at Jones, who accused Cormier of circumventing the weigh-in.
"You take a table and put a whole bunch of kitchen appliances, right?" Cormier replied. "And at the end of one side there's a pot. And at the other side there's a kettle, and you're dirty, while you're sitting there with a steroid needle. That's my opinion on that. You sit over there, pot, with your Cialises or whatever that's called. Sit over there, pot, in detention, Cialis Boy."
Cormier's response when asked if he would visit a plastic surgeon after breaking his nose: "I'll see a doctor and ask him to stick a couple of pieces of wood in there to straight it up, old school. I'm an old-school wrestling guy. Come on. I'm not seeing a plastic surgeon. Are you crazy? What's wrong with you? I'll be walking around like Jim Carrey in that one movie with his three black sons – Me, Myself and Irene."
And there was UFC President Dana White after he was asked for an update on the possibility if a Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather fight, which has been discussed for months, sanitized for a family newspaper.
"What I would like to clarify is all the (nonsense) about the 80-(expletive)-20 split," he said during a news conference that lasted into the wee hours. "Jeff Mayweather? Come on, Jeff. Me and Jeff go way back. Jeff, are you the spokesperson now for the (expletive) Mayweather team? And Bob Arum, you piece of (crap). (Screw) you, too."
Let's not forget Gregard Mousasi, whose contract with UFC expired after his controversial victory Saturday night over Chris Weidman.
"I'm one of the best," he said. "I should get paid like one of the best. Just pay me what I’m worth. I’m a fair guy. I’m not asking more than what I deserve."
As a spectator, I couldn't get enough. As a member of the media, UFC's first show beat the daylights out of listening to rehearsed drivel from underachieving players, coaches and managers that had been washed, rinsed and thrown through the spin cycle.
UFC was as raw away from the octagon as it was inside.
Overall, the event was a major success for UFC. Two fighters retired after their fights, with Patrick Cote also throwing in the towel on his career. There were two controversies, one in which Weidman lost on a technical knockout after a referee made a mistake. The state athletic commission said Pearl Gonzalez wouldn't be allowed to fight with breast implants before realizing that rule pertained to boxers.
White went out of his way to compliment Buffalo for its hospitality, making sure local media knew it was beyond what they often experience in other cities. It was no surprise given Western New York's reputation. The same things were said during the NCAA Tournament and other big events.
"Buffalo is a cool city," White said between fights while sitting a few feet away from Thurman Thomas. "I'm into this type of city, and I'm into these types of people. I have hit every good restaurant in town and tried everything. I was walking down the street and people were walking their dogs and saying, 'Dana White, what's up?' Buffalo is my kind of people, man."
It's easy to understand why UFC has become so popular, particularly with younger fans. You could feel the energy the moment you walked into the arena, where four massive television screens were installed to supplement the Jumbotron.
No wonder why UFC officials are committed to finding new venues and making sure enough time passes between events in the same place. It attracts new fans every time it enters a building while becoming an international phenomenon. I had my doubts about the sport, too, before getting a better look Saturday.
The tension was palpable early in the evening leading into the main card, and the atmosphere became more vibrant as each fight dropped off the card. It was downright wild during the Weidman fiasco and gained momentum when Cormier and Johnson entered the octagon for the light heavyweight title.
Cormier, busted nose and all, answered all the questions before walking away with the belt. Now he needs to fight Jones and make peace with himself.
"I didn't necessarily want to see Jones before the fight," Cormier said. "I put it in my mind that I wasn't going to try not to see him. I ended up seeing him, and it was kind of odd. But when I'm in the octagon, I have to focus on what's in front of me. That was Anthony Johnson."