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UFC Legend, Former Grappling Great Daniel Cormier Returns To The NCAA Mats

"I'm excited to experience the championships from the other side," says ex-Oklahoma State star - and ESPN MMA analyst - who brings his expertise to NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships this weekend in Detroit

An All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State (orange singlet), UFC Champion and ESPN MMA analyst Daniel Cormier will be calling the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships this weekend.
(Credits: (L): Oklahoma State Athletics (R): Gabriel Christus/ESPN Images)

The 2022 NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships begin today in Detroit with three days and 19 hours of live coverage across ESPN platforms (see sidebar below). While the event has been an ESPN staple since 1980, there are a number of new and exciting aspects this year, including the addition of former UFC Heavyweight Champion and broadcaster Daniel Cormier, who will serve as an analyst for the first time Friday and Saturday nights on ESPN.

Cormier was an NCAA All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State. His collegiate record was 53-10, including 27-5 in 2001, when he finished runner-up at the NCAA finals in the 184-pound weight class. Cormier spoke with Front Row about his passion for wrestling and why he is looking forward to this year’s NCAA Championships.

You call yourself “a wrestler at heart.” How did you come to love the sport so much?
Wrestling has given me everything! My education, work ethic – it is the best sport in the world.

What excites you most about calling the NCAA Championships this year?
I’m excited to experience the championships from the other side, to come full circle in a sense.

Which wrestlers are you most looking forward to seeing compete?
Daton Fix (133 pounds) from my alma mater, Oklahoma State, and [Olympic gold medalist and WWE signing] Gable Steveson (285 pounds) from Minnesota.

What do you remember from your time at the NCAAs?
I just remember the enormity of the tournament – feeling like I would never experience anything bigger. That is what the NCAA tournament makes you feel.

Who was the toughest competitor you ever faced?
Definitely Cael Sanderson. I faced him many times.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sanderson, the current Penn State head coach, is a four-time NCAA champion from Iowa State who finished his collegiate career with an undefeated 159-0 record. Sanderson defeated Cormier 8-4 in the final at the 2001 NCAA Championship.

THREE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE 2022 NCAA WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS ON ESPN

1. Wall-to-wall coverage – ESPN networks are dedicating 19 hours of live coverage to the 2022 Wrestling Championships, including day sessions on ESPNU and three nights of primetime on ESPN.

2. MATCAST & Command Center – Through the Medal Round, ESPN3 and the ESPN App will present multi-boxes of all the mats so fans never miss a single point from any match. During Saturday night’s finals, ESPN3’s Command Center second-screen option will offer unique commentary and a variety of specialty camera angles.

3. Expert analysis – In addition to Daniel Cormier, ESPN will feature some of the foremost experts in the sport, including a trio of former NCAA champions who will serve as analysts – Jim Gibbons, J’Den Cox, and Anthony Robles. For more information, visit ESPN Press Room.

DATETIMES (ET)SESSIONNETWORKSESPN3/ESPN APP MAT FEEDS
Thu, Mar 17noon – 3:30 p.m.First RoundESPNU8 mat feeds and MATCAST
7 – 10:30 p.m.Second Round
ESPN8 mat feeds and MATCAST
Fri, Mar 1811 a.m. – 2 p.m.QuarterfinalsESPNU8 mat feeds and MATCAST
8 – 11 p.m.SemifinalsESPN6 mat feeds and MATCAST
Sat, Mar 1911 a.m. – 2 p.m.Medal RoundESPNU4 mat feeds and MATCAST
7 – 10 p.m.
ChampionshipESPNCommand Center and Trophy Ceremony
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