From a snowmobiling adventure, to speaking with media before training, to learning how to barrel roll an airplane is how Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (25-6, 1 NC) spent his first day of UFC 182’s fight week. UFC president Dana White probably only found solace in the fact that Cerrone chose not to skydive.
Without a doubt, the no.4 ranked UFC lightweight encapsulates what it means to live a high-octane lifestyle. Somehow the veteran, who is riding a 5-fight win streak, finds the adrenaline-fueled escapades calming. As he aptly stated, “That to me is freeing my soul. I have to do that to be able to go.”
Lately, Cerrone’s found a way to balance his love for outdoor thrills and maintain his edge in the Octagon. At 31-years-old, Cerrone knows his time to thrive in the sport is now and he’ll do whatever it takes for him to achieve that, even if it means indulging in daredevil stunts leading up to a fight.
With 15 post-fight bonus awards from his tenure in the WEC and UFC combined, Cerrone attributed his rise and impeccable 2014 to rekindling his love for MMA. For over a decade, Cerrone’s competed in the combat sports world. However, he told media ahead of his co-main event tilt with Myles Jury that he just recently rediscovered his passion for it.
“It’s weird. I hit like, a lull. I mean, I don’t know how to explain it other than I’d get in there, like when I fought Ben Henderson the first time, I was like, ‘Man, I’m fighting Ben Henderson.’ I didn’t feel like I belonged with these guys,” Cerrone said. “It was real weird. I had a lot of self-doubt. Now, mentally, I’m where I need to be. I’m back to having fun.
“People ask why I do all this crazy sh**. I used take a flight to Japan, fly over there on a Wednesday, go straight off the plane to a bar, party for two days straight, make weight and go and fight,” Cerrone explained. “That was like what we did. Because fighting to me was, it was fun. I would travel like, ‘I could go to Japan and I get to go kick some ass?’ That’s what I would do. I enjoyed it. I loved it.
“So I would go there and all of the pressure and the build up and all that, it didn’t weigh on me back then. So WEC coming over to the UFC, there was a lot of hype. Like this Jones-Cormier, there’s a lot of hype. It’s just the same, stupid, f***in’ fight as I would have been doing back then.
“So now that I look at it like that, I approach fighting differently, which allows me to go out wakeboard and do all these crazy things that I enjoy doing,” Cerrone continued. “Like, we just got done snowmobiling. We come out here fresh off the mountain.
“It’s just to me, back to having fun. So 2014, just me going back to my old roots, to enjoying fighting. Accomplishing goals? I mean, s***, fighting. That’s all I want to do. Who? When? I don’t care who. I just want to keep going.”
Ahead of Cerrone lies Myles Jury (15-0), an undefeated fighter who rose through ranks by compiling a UFC record of 6-0. Jury now sits at no. 8 in the division after defeating veterans Takanori Gomi and Diego Sanchez in his most recent outings.
Once Cerrone took a decision over Eddie Alvarez at UFC 178, he wanted to set up his next fight right away. He sat down with White and went through the available lightweights. From that list, Cowboy chose Jury.
Cerrone said he picked him from the pack because of some post-fight comments Jury made after taking a victory over Sanchez, Cerrone’s Jackson-Winklejohn MMA teammate.
“I was there for that fight and just the way he handled it after the fight, I thought was unprofessional. You don’t beat somebody and then stand up and say ‘I can’t believe how easy that was. I just went in there and smashed Diego.’
“I was like ‘whoa, dude. Diego’s a veteran.’ Just his mannerisms towards it kind of got under me, but it’s not like a fire burning like, ‘aw I’m coming for you Myles.'”
One lesson the veteran learned from his showdown with Nate Diaz at UFC 141 was not to get emotional leading into a battle. Now 12-3 in the UFC, Cerrone’s first loss in the Octagon came against Diaz at UFC 141, which also snapped a 6-fight win streak. Not one to make excuses for faltering, he simply stated that he didn’t show up that night.
Since then, Cerrone’s made every effort to focus on what he needs to do to improve. With confidence in his coaching staff’s ability to prepare him for every war, the past few camps he’s honed in on becoming better at wrestling. Cerrone said he’ll do whatever it takes to contend with the next generation of mixed martial artists.
“Myles, that’s the new breed coming up. He’s been training, he’s got it all. So me, I’m having to adapt my game, and learn everything and become great at all…I’ve got to be constantly evolving.”
If he wins at UFC 182, Cerrone may set his sights on making a run at the championship. But, he’s not necessarily making that his only goal. Not one to sit idly, Cerrone wants to compete six times in 2015. Waiting for months to fight for a belt isn’t part of that plan.
“Will I sit and wait? Absolutely not. So I’m going to say, ‘Who wants to fight?’ So I’m going to go to Dana and say, ‘Who do you want me to fight? Do I need to fight Khabib [Nurmagomedov]? Okay, I’ll fight Khabib.’ Somebody else down the line, I’ll take one of them. I don’t care. I’m getting older in the sport now and I don’t know how much time I have – just fighting as much as I can, trying to build my brand, make my name and make as much money as I can.”
“I’m 31 now. I’m not a wild, punk kid anymore,” Cerrone added. “I see the business side of it and moving up the ladder towards the title. The title, overall, that’s where the money’s at. I mean, it’s a no-brainer there. Everyone’s like, ‘you want the title?’ Yeah. You’re the champion, your sponsors are bigger. So absolutely, that’s my overall goal. But emotionally, no. It’s just fighting, fight for fight.”
It’s likely UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis will take on Rafael dos Anjos next, but Cerrone would gladly step in to square off with “Showtime” again should he be called upon. If Cerrone could have things his way, he’d rematch current UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in his native Denver.
“The overall goal is to be the best in the world. As many times as I want to talk about ‘I don’t care,’ if the title shot is there, absolutely we’re taking the shot.
“Will I sit and wait 6, 8 months? No, that won’t happen. I’ll just take more fights. My drawback on that could be bad. I could possibly take a loss on my mission in doing that. But then again, why not? If you’re the champ, you’ve got to beat them anyway. So why not fight them all?”
“Let me get the belt,” Cerrone stated. “Because then, I’m changing the organization. All the 55’ers would be like, ‘Holy sh**. We gotta go, we gotta fight because this son of a b***h is calling all of us.’ Let me get the belt, f***in-A yeah. I’m coming every couple of months. I’m going to say Dana, ‘Let’s book it now, let’s figure it out.’ And I’m going to keep it going, and you’re going to see the top ten rankings constantly f****n’ looping because I’m going to stay busy. That’s my plan.”
UFC 182 takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Jan. 3, 2015. In the main event, current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones puts his title on the line against Daniel Cormier.