Cormier congratulates Jones, 'thankful' to ref

In making his first public comments since he relinquished the light heavyweight championship at UFC 214 by falling via knockout to Jon Jones on Saturday night, Daniel Cormier posted a statement via Instagram thanking his supporters and lauding Jones with praise for his victory.

Cormier’s statement also included an apology to referee John McCarthy, who called the fight in the third round after Cormier staggered backward and then around the cage with Jones in pursuit and took a vicious head kick and a series of merciless strikes on the ground in losing to Jones for the second time.

Cormier, who The USA Today reported was seen arguing with McCarthy after the fight, thanked the longtime referee for “the time you gave me to try and defend myself and stay in the fight.”

In responding to a question on Twitter earlier Sunday about if he had stopped the fight too late, McCarthy himself was quick to express his regret for not protecting Cormier and stopping the fight sooner.

Cormier, who held the belt for most of the past two years while Jones (23-1) dealt with self-inflicted setbacks outside the cage and had lost only to Jones during his professional career, issued an emotional quote after the loss.

“I don’t know, man,” said Cormier, who lost to Jones by clear decision in their first bout in January 2015. “I thought the fight was going well. I don’t even know what happened. I got kicked in the head. … Oh, man, I am so disappointed.”

Jones, for his part, was highly complementary of Cormier after the win, his 10th career knockout. Jones heaped praise on the 39-year-old ex-Olympic wrestler before walking over to embrace a distraught Cormier.

“I want to take this time to thank Daniel Cormier for being my biggest rival and motivator,” Jones said. “He has absolutely no reason to hang his head. He has been a model champion, a model husband, a model father, a teammate, a leader, and I aspire to be a lot more like that man because he’s an amazing human being. Unfortunately, we were opponents, but outside of that, he is a true champion for the rest of his life.”

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