Despite having relationships with many fighters throughout the sport, former two-division champion Cormier has rarely been questioned on whether he can coffer an unbiased judgment as a professional analyst for ESPN. However, that changed over the weekend when Gaethje took umbrage with a tweet “DC” sent following last weekend’s UFC 267 card.
Cormier took to Twitter after lightweight contender Makhachev earned a ninth straight win with a dominant performance over top-10 talent Dan Hooker. The former heavyweight champion proclaimed, “Give [Makhachev] the title fight! I don’t need to see who wins next week. This dude just killed it. … He’s gonna be the champ.”
Justin Gaethje calls Daniel Cormier an Islam Makhachev shill
The fight next week that the 42-year-old referenced was Gaethje’s (22-3). “The Highlight” is set to face Michael Chandler (22-6) on Saturday night at UFC 268 in a scrap many feel could set up the next challenger to the lightweight title. Cormier’s opinion is all the more questionable because of his relationship with Makhachev. The Russian trains at American Top Team, which is the ESPN analyst’s long-time training home. Makhachev is also the protege of Nurmagomedov, who has been a very close friend of Cormier’s for years.
Furthermore, as an individual who has earned a place of voice viewers listen to, Cormier’s opinions — even away from ESPN broadcasts — could arguably influence fan preferences on who will face the winner of the UFC 269 lightweight title fight between champion Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier.
After Saturday’s tweet, Gaethje let his disapproval be known on what he saw as bias and responded by saying, “Suck it harder [Cormier].” The response eventually led to a back-and-forth digital trade of barbs between the two.
On Wednesday, at his UFC 268 media day press conference, Gaethje was asked about his Twitter beef with Cormier, and if there is a conflict of interest between the popular ESPN talent and the fast-rising 155-pound star.
“Incredibly biased,” Gaethje said about Cormier’s public opinions of Makhachev. “At the end of the day, I love Cormier. I felt it was my job that night to tweet, and call it out, because that’s what I saw. Outside that, it doesn’t matter. I think he knows that he should be in an unbiased mindset when he’s doing this, and I would hope that’s important to him.
Gaethje vs Chandler will take place on the main card of UFC 268 on Nov. 6. The main card pay-per-view portion of the event will air exclusively on ESPN+ and begin at 10 pm ET.
Do you agree with Gaethje and Cormier’s public proclamations on Makhachev are becoming problematic?