One of the best mixed martial arts fighters of all-time has landed in the Bay Area to take over one of the best high school wrestling programs in the state. And even though it's not his most pressing task at the moment, he's finding it hard to contain his enthusiasm for the job.
Light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier is in training for arguably the biggest fight of his career, a July 7 bout in Las Vegas against heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. As if that wasn't enough to keep him busy, Cormier is preparing to be the next coach of the Gilroy High School wrestling team.
"Coaching wrestling excites me," Cormier said. "And when you’ve done a lot of stuff over the course of your career, it’s a little bit harder to get excited. This stuff excites me."
After long-time Gilroy High wrestling coach Greg Varela stepped down in March, Cormier took notice. Principal Marco Sanchez, who like Cormier is a former Olympic wrestler, was as surprised as anyone by the UFC star’s interest in the job.
"It was completely out of the blue," Sanchez said. "And when I got the news, cautious optimism. Because again, I had to ask the hard questions. This is what is required. This is the commitment. Are you willing to do it? He didn’t blink. He said, 'Yes, I’m in.' You know, he’s also not taking a salary, so he’s the most qualified and most underpaid school coach in the league."
Cormier inherits a program that is arguably the most established in the state.
"Central Coast Section, which is from San Francisco to King City, 130 schools. We’ve won that division 16 consecutive years," Sanchez said.
Cormier added: "I’m pretty sure there is going to be some expectations, but I anticipate we’ll meet them and exceed them."
Cormier plans to retire from UFC competition next March on his 40th birthday. He says wrestling has given him everything, and he wants to impart the wisdom he’s gathered on the next generation. And the fact that he can still do it carries some cachet.
"They see that the things I ask of them I’m willing to do myself," he said. "That’s a big deal."