There are particular sacrifices one makes to have a career as a professional fighter. The daily grind of a six to eight week training camp taxes the body at a level beyond measure, and when paired with strict diets and nutritional game plans, it’s easy for the zest to be zapped out of life in the lead up to a fight. These things are done to ensure a fighter will be in peak condition when fight night rolls around, and they are commitments most make because they believe that brand of discipline is necessary for success to be achieved.
This is the way most fighters proceed, but Donald Cerrone is not like most fighters. In fact, in a lot of ways Cerrone isn’t like any other fighter on the planet, and that suits him just fine. Where other fighters use their nickname as an extension of their image for branding or marketing purposes to hopefully sell a few extra t-shirts or fill spaces for a seminar, the 31-year-old Colorado native is a walking embodiment of his “Cowboy” moniker, and the rough and tumble lifestyle is one he embraces with every fiber of his being.
Where his peers at the highest level of mixed martial arts live and die every day in the gym, hitting multiple sessions, Cerrone takes a different approach to the chaos. Granted, he shows up to put his work in much like the next guy, but when that work is done, the Jackson / Winkeljohn-trained fighter heads off into the wind to find other avenues to keep his mind and body sharp.
By no means does Cerrone discount the approach other fighters take to prepare; he’s just making the most of what works for him. After eight years slinging leather inside the cage and his 30th bout rapidly approaching, he has had plenty of time to determine the methods that suit him best. Some fighters may need three sessions a day where they delve into various disciplines in their respective games, but Cerrone is at the point where he’s come to understand how important it is to keep the mind fresh and the soul thriving.
Whether it’s clocking time on the open water behind the wheel of his boat or putting the sweat equity into keeping his ranch in New Mexico alive and well, Cerrone does whatever it takes to keep the good in his life front and center. He’s been around the game long enough to see how fighters can forget to enjoy the ride, and from the smile Cerrone is sporting these days, it’s clear to see he’s getting the most out of the journey he is on.
“I think some of these guys focus too much on training,” Cerrone said. “I’ll see some of these guys after practice and ask if they want to go to the pool or the lake and they are like, “Go to the lake? I have a fight coming up.” I think fighters are taking training way too seriously. In a sense I can see where they are coming from because they are putting away now for what they want later. But I’m completely the opposite. I make sure I enjoy myself even while I’m training. Take today for example. I came in and worked out but then I’m going horseback riding. It’s a nice day and I’m going to go ride the sh** out of them and have some fun, man.
“I’m back to having fun and the fire is back. I’m back to doing what I do and things couldn’t be better. I feel great."
Where other athletes operate tend to use a grounded platform to launch from, Cerrone is as much in the proverbial wind as they come. The New Mexico ranch owner prefers to keep things of the freewheeling variety, and when all cylinders of Cerrone’s game are firing in time, the former WEC title contender is dangerous from all points inside the cage. He’s used those skills to build a number of impressive winning streaks, as he’s no stranger to the fruits of post-fight bonus checks that have come from putting the opposition on ice.
Nevertheless, there have been times throughout his career where an unsuspecting curve or two have thrown him off on fight night. Despite Cerrone being one of the best 155-pound fighters in the world, there have been performances where things simply didn’t come to together as they should under the bright lights of the sport’s biggest stage. He’s well aware of how these occurrences have hindered his rise to title contention, but it isn’t baggage he’s going to carry for all too long. In the aftermath of those outings, Cerrone has faced up to the setback then sets out to ride on to the next challenge, refusing to let one rough night derail everything he’s worked hard to achieve.
Pushing through tough times has begun to garner unique results inside the cage, as was the case in his most recent outing against Adriano Martins earlier this year in Chicago. The Brazilian standout was first out of the gates as he settled in and scored with solid shots in the opening minutes of the bout. In past fights where Cerrone has gotten off to a slow start, things have been touch and go, but that wasn’t the case at the United Center, as the perennial contender snapped into focus and put Martins away with a devastating head kick to close things out late in the opening frame.
“Man, I came out flat in that fight,” Cerrone recalled of his tilt with Martins. “Thank God I have years of experience under my belt and knowing where I needed to be. I could hear my coaches yelling at me and was like, ‘Yeah…I hear what you are saying but it’s just not working.’ I needed to wake up and I happened to do it at the right time.
“When you sit at home and watch this sport it looks pretty easy. But when you are in there and have to tell your brain to match your heart and to match your fist and feet, it’s pretty damn tough. It’s so crazy because in a fight it takes one thing to switch the momentum. One big shot can make you start second guessing yourself. Staying in your head in this game is tough. Some of those grudge matches I might have gotten a bit too involved, but whatever. I’m back baby.”
With his victory over Martins, the hard-charging lightweight has laid the ground work for another impressive string of victories. Each successful step taken means another rung on the ladder is in the past and brings him closer to the championship opportunity he’s been coveting since crossing over from the WEC back in 2011. But before he can start to think about title shots he will have to get within striking distance of the belt, and he will need to go through Edson Barboza in order to make that happen.
The two walking highlight reels will mix it up this Saturday at UFC on FOX in Orlando in a bout that will feature two of the most versatile and feared strikers in the lightweight division. Where Cerrone is well aware of the dangers the Brazilian leg kick machine brings to the table, he hasn’t invested too much of time worrying about what Barboza plans to do. He believes the Renzo Gracie-trained fighter is the one in the matchup that is venturing into foreign territory, and hopes above all else, that he shows up to fight in Orlando.
“Edson is a dangerous guy with great striking, but I don’t think he’s fought anyone like me before,” Cerrone said. “I really don’t. The guys he’s making highlight reels on are so-so guys, but now he’s coming to the top 10 and let’s see how he does. I’m not taking anything away from the guy though. I’ve seen zero tape on him except the highlight where he spinning kicked a guy. Other than that, I don’t know don’t care. I hope he trains hard and f****** shows up to fight because I’m looking for one of those bonuses.”
Cerrone: The Cowboy Goes His Own Way
"I’m back to having fun and the fire is back. I’m back to doing what I do and things couldn’t be better. I feel great." - Donald Cerrone