Ilir Latifi wants Daniel Cormier to be a man of his word, or vacate light heavyweight title


LAS VEGAS — UFC light heavyweight contender Ilir Latifi wants Daniel Cormier to be a man of his word, and defend his 205-pound title before the end of the year.

Latifi (14-5) is rehabbing a rib injury at the UFC’s Performance Institute this week, but says he’ll be ready to fight by November. Cormier (21-1) holds the heavyweight and light heavyweight titles, and has stated multiple times he will defend the latter before the end of 2018.

But Latifi, who has won five of his last six, is calling Cormier’s bluff.

As much as he would love to see Cormier make good on his promise to defend the lighter belt, he doesn’t see it happening.

“Honestly, I don’t think he’s going to come down any more,” Latifi told ESPN. “I think he’s playing around, seeing what money fights he can make. I understand that in a way, but something needs to happen at 205. There are guys who want that shot at a title or interim title.

“He says a lot of things. He’s said he’ll fight me. I told him to be a man of his word and do it. If he’s looking for more comfortable fights, he shouldn’t be champ.”

Cormier, 39, intends to retire next year. He has a heavyweight title defense waiting for him in 2019, against WWE star Brock Lesnar. Lesnar is not eligible to fight in the UFC until January, however, due to requirements under the UFC’s anti-doping program.

Although Cormier claims he will defend his 205-pound title in the meantime, he’s also indicated he only wants to take fights that will draw at the box office.

Latifi says he doesn’t even believe that to be the full truth. He said even if Jon Jones, Cormier’s biggest rival, were to come back from a drug suspension before the end of the year, he still doesn’t think Cormier would return to light heavyweight. Jones has been out indefinitely since July 2017 due to a failed drug test.

“I heard Jon Jones is coming back this year. Rumors, you know?” Latifi said. “You see what he’s posting on social media, you get an indication he’s getting back. Let’s see. I don’t think Cormier fights Jon Jones again. I see Alex [Gustafsson] fighting Jon, but if not, I would love to fight Jon, too.”

At the end of the day, Latifi just doesn’t see any scenario that results in Cormier returning to the lighter weight class.

And if that’s the case, he’d like Cormier to allow the division move on.

“Either he comes down and defends against me this year, or they have to make an interim title or force him to step down from the title,” Latifi said. “It’s only fair. I think what he’s done for the sport is great and he’s a great champion, but it’s a new time now.”

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