Yet once he was exposed to kids who didn’t look like him, it was just like any other relationship in that he made it work. And once he began playing sports, it became crystal clear immediately that to be successful as part of a team, you had to be able to get along with everybody.
“Once I got into sports, I was surrounded by different races – White kids, Black kids – playing football together,” he said. “And through wrestling, you obviously see everybody, so I just learned to get along with people. If a guy was working hard, I respected him. It didn’t matter if he was White, Black, Mexican, Russian – was that guy like-minded, did he work hard? We were all trying to accomplish the same thing. Those are the things I always looked at as a kid and I took those same lessons to me growing older.”
For evidence, just look at the United Nations occupying the AKA gym that was Cormier’s home throughout his UFC career. Whether you were Cain Velasquez, Khabib Nurmagomedov or Luke Rockhold, if you worked hard and pulled your weight for the team, Cormier would have your back through any situation. And while that was his life on a day-to-day basis during his 11-year pro MMA career, early on, as he began to move up the ranks, he realized that he could also make a difference in the lives of kids around the country and the world, starting in Lafayette.
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“I became more aware of what I was gonna leave behind as I got older,” he said. “When you’re young, you’re kinda flying by the seat of your pants. But then, as I got older, when I got to the UFC and the platform raised, I think one thing that really did change the way I perceived everything was once I was at my neighborhood convenience store and there was a picture from Bud Light of Rashad Evans. And my wife and I were just like, ‘Oh, there’s Rashad.’ And it was in the middle of Lafayette, Louisiana, where all these little, young black boys and girls would see Rashad Evans and could see that ‘wow, this guy looks like me.’ And I kind of thought at that point, man, if I can get to that point to where Rashad is, I could be on posters and I could be on advertisements in my own neighborhood, so I can motivate and show the kids that are from the same place that I am, that through hard work and commitment that you can become something special. So as I got older, I became way more aware of the opportunity to really motivate and inspire kids to know that things could be different.”
Those inspired kids included his own, and while the world was turned upside down in 2020, the Cormiers had to have some tough conversations with Daniel Jr. and Marquita.