Back injury delays UFC champ Daniel Cormier's return, canceling retirement at 40

A little sneeze can be a big deal.

UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier said a back injury brought on by that innocuous reflex has now delayed his timetable for return.

Cormier (22-1 MMA, 11-1 UFC) told “I have to take some time off. I had to take some time to try and make myself healthy because my schedule was so heavy last year. Three fights, three five-round training camps, very heavy training camps.

“Last year was three championship fights, I did ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ I did all my commentary duties, (and) I took that high school wrestling job in the middle of the year. It’s just a heavy, heavy year and I just need some time to get myself back in order.”

The recuperation apparently has pushed back Cormier’s timeline for retirement, which he previously pegged at 40. A little over one month away from that March 20 milestone, the UFC champ told “The MMA Hour” he’s not going to call it quits just yet (via host Luke Thomas on Twitter).

That’s music to the ears of UFC President Dana White, who estimated Cormier could compete three more times before hanging up his gloves. Cormier’s coach Javier Mendez concurred with that timeframe after advocating retirement and added the champ shouldn’t fight any more at light heavyweight.

After winning the heavyweight title from Stipe Miocic (18-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) this past July, Cormier sought to defend the light heavyweight title he was given when now-champ Jon Jones (23-1 MMA, 17-1 UFC) was stripped of the belt for a failed drug test. Then he expected to take on ex-champ Brock Lesnar (5-3-1 MMA, 4-3-1 UFC), who confronted him in the cage after his win.

Things didn’t exactly work out to plan. Cormier instead defended the heavyweight title against Derrick Lewis in a last-minute headliner at UFC 230. Then he was stripped of the light heavyweight title – or gave it up, depending on who told the story – when Jones returned from a suspension and recaptured the belt in a rematch against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232 in December.

Cormier left UFC 230 nursing an injured thumb and an unsteady back, which has yet to fully heal.

“You think you’re better, but then you’re not, and when you’re not better, you’re really not better,” Cormier described. “You feel fine but when it goes out you’re on the floor crawling. It’s a weird thing.”

Talk of a rematch between Jones and Cormier has heated up since Jones’ return, and Miocic has pressed for a rematch. White called for Lesnar, Miocic and Jones – in that order. But they’ll all have to wait.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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