Daniel Cormier is no longer the UFC light heavyweight champion.
Cormier told ESPN on Friday that he has decided to give up the 205-pound title rather than have it stripped from him once Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson fight for the belt at UFC 232 on Saturday night.
“Today I am going to relinquish the UFC light heavyweight title,” Cormier wrote in an exclusive statement to ESPN. “I am not going to be stripped of the belt that I’ve defended with my all for three and a half years. Being stripped of a title suggests you’ve done something wrong, and I haven’t.
“I’d rather walk away this way, with my head held high as it always has been, than have the history books say I was stripped. I’ve defended this title this year. I was approached with the idea of fighting at heavyweight, so I took it. I fought three times in 2018. No champion has been more active than me. I am the fighter of the year. My story and my legacy will not include me being stripped of a title. They can have it.”
Cormier lost the belt to Jones in July 2017. However, it was returned to him after Jones failed a drug test, testing positive for oral turinabol. Cormier defended the belt in January against Volkan Oezdemir and then won the heavyweight title in July when he knocked out Stipe Miocic. Cormier defended that belt in November when he submitted Derrick Lewis.
Cormier has maintained that he will retire once he turns 40 in March and that he has no desire to fight Jones for a third time.