Daniel Cormier Details His Side Of Phil Hawes Situation At UFC Austin, Admits He Was A ‘little Bit Pissed Off’

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UFC Fight Night: Hawes v Winn
Phil Hawes and Daniel Cormier | Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Daniel Cormier wants it to be known that there’s no beef between himself and UFC middleweight contender Phil Hawes.

The former two-division champion and Hawes shared a tense moment in the cage at UFC Austin this past Saturday after Hawes’ impressive win over Deron Winn. Cameras captured a heated exchange between the two and it was initially unclear what the issue was, though speculation quickly arose on social media that it was due to Cormier and Winn’s close friendship.

Hawes apologized to Cormier later that evening and now Cormier is sharing his account of the incident, including what exactly sparked the confrontation.

“Fight ends, I get up to go do the interview,” Cormier said via YouTube. “As soon as the fight’s over, I press the cough button, drop my head set, and I walk towards the ring, and I can hear Phil yelling at [commentators Dominick Cruz and Brendan Fitzgerald], ‘Where’s DC? Where’s DC?’ while I was walking into the octagon. I step into the octagon and Phil is doing something that we call in Louisiana, ‘Booting up.’ This dude’s booting up on me. Phil’s like this, ‘What’s up, man? What’s up?’ And I was like, what is going on? He’s booting up on me. So I’m like, ‘Me?’ to Phil. And Phil’s kind of telling me that I picked the wrong opponent. Well, if you want to know where that stems from, here it is. I’ll tell you exactly what it stems from.

“When I was in Abu Dhabi, before [when] Phil was managed by this guy named Daniel Rubenstein, he asked me to sit with Phil at Fight Island. Phil and I sat with his advisor, a guy that he’s very close to and we talked and we spoke and then we talked about Phil coming out to AKA to train with me. What happened next was the UFC called and asked for Deron Winn to fight Phil Hawes.”

According to Cormier, he immediately questioned the wisdom of the matchup as he didn’t like the wrestler vs. wrestler clash on paper and didn’t see it as a good fit for Winn. Hawes and Winn had also seen two previous bookings fall through, so Cormier was ready for his protege to move on to a different opponent.

Somehow, this discussion made its way to Hawes’ camp and the fast-rising middleweight took it as a personal slight.

“I said ‘no’ to the fight,” Cormier said. “I didn’t think it was a great fight and obviously look at what played out. It’s not like I was wrong in my thought in regards to the matchup. So Phil is saying I picked the wrong opponent. So I say to Phil, ‘Do you think I pick fights? Do you think I make the fights?’ I go, ‘Phil, that’s ridiculous. I don’t make the fights, my friend. Be respectful. Be respectful.’

“Phil being the great guy that he is, he immediately gets that. Phil’s not a bad guy, that’s what people don’t understand. I hold no ill will towards Phil Hawes for last weekend. He’s high on adrenaline, he had the best performance of his entire career. He feels like King Kong, he feels great out there, he’s hyped up, he’s got this idea — probably something that has motivated him throughout the entire camp — to go and put me in my place because I picked him as Deron’s opponent. The reality is I didn’t do that.”

While Cormier is glad that the situation was quickly defused, he admits that there was a moment where Hawes was genuinely under his skin. Part of the reason Cormier was so bothered by the exchange is that he believes when fighters defeat an associate of a top name, they feel as if they’ve indirectly landed a hit on the elite fighter in question.

Cormier just doesn’t believe that’s the case and it took him a minute to check himself and calm down.

“I think a lot of guys deal with this,” Cormier said. “Myself, Khabib Nurmagomedov. The moment somebody beats one of those guys [Nurmagomedov is associated with], they’re going to feel like they beat Khabib. When people beat my son in a wrestling match, they feel like they got something over on me, but they’re not. They didn’t beat me and that’s what I told Phil. That’s what I told Phil, I go, ‘Phil, you didn’t beat me.’

“Now at this point, I’m a little bit pissed off. Because I’m like, ‘Wow, what is going on here?’ I’m from Louisiana and I’m a fighter and you cannot turn that off. But Phil, to his defense, immediately recognizes that he may be in the wrong. His entire team’s off to the side going, ‘DC, it’s all good’ behind him, he’s just warped up. Everybody came and shaked my hand and we go back and we do the interview. Two professionals doing exactly what we were supposed to do.”

If anything, Cormier is glad that he and Hawes had their run-in and that they were able to handle it professionally without further incident. He hopes to see Hawes grow from the experience just as he has from various confrontations over the course of his combat sports career.

Cormier noted that Hawes reached out with an apology via text and that the door is still open for them to train together.

“I have nothing but respect for him and if he fights in the manner that he fought on Saturday, this kid has all the potential in the world to be a world champion,” Cormier said. “That is how good I believe Phil Hawes is. I think he can be world champ if he fights like he did last weekend. He’s that good.”