When American Kickboxing Academy’s “Crazy” Bob Cook first introduced Scott Coker to the recent Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier, the Strikeforce boss was not overly impressed.
Although Coker liked the two-time Olympic wrestler’s intelligence and articulate nature, the man behind the heavyweight tournament, which concluded this past May, had an important statement for the neophyte mixed martial artist and his new coach, Bob Cook: “This is Strikeforce, not Wrestleforce.”
At the time of the meeting, Cormier could neither kick nor punch, and was wholly unversed in submission grappling and jiu jitsu. In spite of his lack of overall assets necessary for the sport, Cook assured Coker that the freestyle wrestling Olympian was an incredible athlete that would take to MMA like a fish to water.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” admitted Coker, “but Bob said, ‘We’re going to get him ready and in with the guys [at AKA].’”
Despite a 4-0 stint in Strikeforce, and an overall record of 7-0, Coker was still not sold on Cormier’s abilities until his bout with well-respected and seasoned MMA veteran, Jeff “The Snowman” Monson at Strikeforce: Overeem vs Werdum last summer.
“It wasn’t really until the fight he had with Jeff Monson that I said, ‘This guy [Cormier] has really made the transition.’
“Then I knew he could strike, kick and wrestle.”
When Cormier’s name was called as a replacement for Alistair Overeem against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in the Grand Prix, Coker admittedly remained on the fence regarding the former Olympian’s skills until the Louisiana native thoroughly handled the Brazilian, Silva.
“When he knocked out ‘Bigfoot,’ that’s when I said, ‘This guy’s legit.’”
How does the Strikeforce CEO rank Cormier now after personally wrapping the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix belt around the stocky wrestler’s waist?
“I think he [Cormier] clearly proved that he belongs in the top five in the heavyweight division, as far as I’m concerned; going through the gauntlet to get there. So I’m proud of him.”