The beef between Daniel Cormier and Jake Paul seemed to come to a head last weekend during a face-to-face confrontation. But now, things have only escalated.
Cormier, the former UFC double champion, and Paul, the polarizing YouTube-star-turned-boxer, have gone back and forth on social media since Paul knocked out Cormier's friend Ben Askren on April 17 in a boxing match. Last Saturday at UFC 261, Cormier, who was working as a commentator at the event, left his broadcast position to confront him.
Cormier explained the situation Monday on ESPN's DC & Helwani show, saying he would not let Paul disrespect him. Cormier said he does not want to fight Paul, but is willing to do so in an MMA bout -- not boxing. Paul has proposed a boxing match.
"My name will not be used as a springboard," said Cormier, one of the greatest UFC fighters of all time. "I love my legacy and I will protect my legacy. And if protecting my legacy means I gotta slap this kid upside his head, that's what I'll do."
Cormier said he would have gotten physical with Paul, but he knew he would have been in hot water with the UFC if he had.
"I wanted to grab him by the face and smash him into the ground," Cormier said. "But you can't do that at work. I would have gotten in trouble."
In an interview with Helwani on Monday, Paul said Cormier is the one who started the issues between them when he tweeted disparagingly about Paul ahead of the Askren fight. After that bout, Cormier tweeted that he was furious about how Paul and his team disrespected former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, who was in Askren's corner, during a meeting.
Paul responded to Cormier, calling him "fat boy" and proposing that the two fight in boxing. Paul said Monday that if Cormier wants to fight him, boxing would make the most sense. Paul added that Cormier was an "embarrassment" and "not a man of your word" for not slapping him at UFC 261 like he said he would.
"I find it funny, because he's challenging me in something I've never trained in," Paul said. "He's trained boxing and striking and stand up and has been in there with Stipe [Miocic], Jon Jones. He's been in there with the best of the best striking. So why not box? You want to go against me in something I've never trained in before? Of course."
Cormier, 42, retired from the UFC last year. He said he would not want to compete with Paul, 24, with a "limited" set of rules. He said he was willing to drop to 205 pounds, his old weight class, to take on Paul in MMA.
"I'm going to rip his face apart," Cormier said. "I'm going to hurt the kid. I will teach these kids not to continue to do this with people like me -- athletes. ... I'm gonna choke him, I'm gonna elbow him. I'm gonna hurt him."
Paul has exchanged some harsh words with UFC president Dana White in interviews, but Paul said he got into UFC 261 through the UFC and he was shown on the big screen during the broadcast.
Several times during the main card, including during a bout between Anthony Smith and Jimmy Crute, the crowd was paying more attention to Paul than the fight, chanting "f--- Jake Paul!"
"That was crazy to me," Paul said. "It just added to the spectacle. They just wouldn't stop chanting it all night, which continues to give me content, helps me build my brand and makes me the focus of the entire event. It's just funny, man. I'm having the time of my life watching this all unfold.
"They're feeding into this game. I'm under their skin. I feel like the matador and the whole fight world is the bull. It's just absurd to see how quickly this compounded."