GREAT FALLS — Daniel Cormier is a busy man.
On Wednesday, the UFC heavyweight champion hopped on a flight from Chicago to Great Falls and six hours later was on another plane to California to resume training for a title rematch against Stipe Miocic at UFC 241 on Aug. 17.
But between touchdown and takeoff, Cormier was giving everything he had to young wrestlers at the Zadick Bros. Wrestling Camp in Great Falls where he was a guest clinician.
“Bill and Mike (Zadick) asked me, I’ve known them for a long time, so I came up and did it,” Cormier said. “I’ve known Mike since college, we were in college at the same time. Bill, Mike and I were on the world team together in like 2006, I think, we were on the same team. But they’re good guys, I think they’re awesome.”
Before Cormier achieved worldwide fame as a mixed martial artist, he was one of the more accomplished wrestlers in the country. The heavyweight was a two-time all-American at Oklahoma State and competed in two Olympic Games. He shared stories and experiences from his time on the mat and in the octagon with campers Wednesday.
“It’s an opportunity to learn from someone that you wouldn’t normally get to meet. I met a couple kids at Mike’s mom’s house and all they wanted to talk about were the fights,” Cormier said. “They watched a ton of them. When those kids were watching those fights, they would never imagine there would be a time where we were discussing those same fights at the dinner table, so it’s just being able to provide those kids with the opportunity to see that, for the sport that they have chosen, really special things can happen.”
Great Falls native Mike Zadick, who was a member of the 2008 US Olympic freestyle wrestling team with Cormier in Beijing, knows the type of impact someone like him can have on a wrestler with big dreams in Montana.
“Having kids in camp being able to just come up and shake his hand is amazing,” Zadick said. “They can hear a message from him and watch technique and gain something, but you’ll remember meeting him and you’ll see him all over and you get to follow that and hopefully aspire to at least be somewhat accomplished like that. And that’s what helps these kids.”
Cormier is the currently the No. 1-ranked pound-for-pound UFC fighter in the world. He’s just the third fighter to win championships in two weight divisions and the only one to defend both titles successfully. He also serves as a broadcast commentator at UFC events throughout the year.
His time is valuable. But on Wednesday he was more than happy to give it to young kids in Great Falls, because before the stardom he was in their shoes.
“It’s very rewarding and it means a lot to me,” Cormier said. “When you’re doing things for financial gain, it’s awesome. But when you do things to give back and do things for a purpose it means a lot more. When I give a kid a ride home from practice, there was someone who gave me a ride home. When I come and do a wrestling clinic, there was someone who did a wrestling clinic for me. And I just hope that I can give that back to someone in this gymnasium.”