Former UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier described Kobe Bryant as “accessible” and “just so driven” when speaking about the Los Angeles Lakers superstar on Ariel Helwani’s show for ESPN.
The two met at the 2004 Athens Olympics and last year worked together on Bryant’s ESPN+ show, “Detail.” Bryant was one of nine who died in a helicopter crash outside Los Angeles on Sunday.
“I was so happy. I was so happy to have started to make a relationship with someone like that,” Cormier said.
"I was so happy. I was so happy to have started to make a relationship with someone like that."@dc_mma on his connection with Kobe Bryant, beginning with their first meeting at the 2004 Olympics (via @arielhelwani) pic.twitter.com/M0mKalNv8I— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) January 27, 2020
Cormier, 40, said he met Bryant while the two participated in their respective sports at the Olympics. He placed fourth in freestyle wresting at the Athens Games and was named captain for 2008, though he did not compete.
“He was just so accessible. He would be at the Olympic village, take anybody’s picture. He didn’t really cordon himself off from everybody. Obviously it gets overwhelming when you get a profile that he did. But he was still there. ... He was always a nice guy.”
Cormier said “you could just tell that he was so driven” at the Athens Games. But in his office, in retirement, Cormier said he could tell the star was at ease and different.
Thank you for choosing me KB. Thank you for trusting me with this show that meant so much to you. It was your brainchild. We will honor you with every episode. You were just the best, and getting to know you is something I’ll never forget. #ripmamba pic.twitter.com/w1qGZ2gNxm— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) January 27, 2020
Cormier worked with Bryant on a five-part UFC edition of “Detail,” an ESPN+ sports analysis program by Bryant’s Granity Studios. The fighter wrote and provided expert analysis for each episode, focusing on five fighters’ “unique styles and techniques” that make them champions.
Holloway shares thoughts on post-hoops Kobe
Unlike Cormier, former featherweight champion Max Holloway didn’t get a chance to meet Bryant but was impacted by the legend.
He retweeted a post ESPN MMA shared from last year in which Holloway spoke on the Mamba Mentality. But the crux of his message was about Bryant’s life outside of basketball.
Like many fans around the world I didn't get the chance to actually meet Kobe. But when things got difficult for me, choosing to work harder in the dark, choosing to try to be better today than yesterday, choosing Mamba mentality, https://t.co/HRXe1VTIrK— Max Holloway (@BlessedMMA) January 27, 2020
He wrote in a Twitter thread:
“Like many fans around the world I didn’t get a chance to actually meet Kobe. But when things got difficult for me, choosing to work harder in the dark, choosing to try to be better today than yesterday, choosing Mamba mentality, made me feel like I understood and knew him as good as anybody could. Loved watching him play... but seeing his relationship with his daughters, seeing how he was able to successfully move on to new obsessions after basketball, those are the things my team and I talked about most and actually adopted. He had every damn scoring record you could want but I’m most grateful to him for those assists in my life.”
McGregor honors Bryant at Grammys
The Grammys were held Sunday night, hours after news of Bryant’s death spread, and the annual music program honored him throughout the night.
Conor McGregor took the initiative to speak about Bryant on the red carpet outside Staples Center, calling it a “very sad day” even for non-basketball fans.
“I’ve never met Kobe, but his power has transcended. I don’t know basketball too much but I feel this, and I feel sad with this. He’s a family man, a humanitarian, passionate about his sports.”
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