Thirty miles east of Albuquerque, through the Cibola National Forest, sits the town of Edgewood, New Mexico, whose population nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010, bringing the head count in the Sante Fe County metropolis to just shy of 4,000 people.
One of those residents is UFC standout Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
A handful of years ago, the 33-year-old gunslinger started assembling a live-work-play oasis to call his own out in the sticks; a place where he could roll out of bed and into his own gym at whatever time he pleased, while also having the option to ride horses, shoot guns or put in a hard day of labor if he were so inclined.
While there are always bound to be projects on the grounds at all times, the BMF Ranch is now operational and the main place where Cerrone preps for his upcoming fights.
“I think it does help with his schedule,” explained Brandon Gibson, the long-time Jackson-Wink striking coach and the newest addition to the Cerrone’s band of outlaws. “Cowboy stays very busy on his sponsor side, on his promotional side, and on his duties with the UFC, and it’s great that we have the Ranch that we can go to at 11 o’clock on a Sunday night and still get our work in.”
Though he and Cerrone have known each other for years and have always been friends, Gibson only officially came on board at the start of the year, as the former lightweight contender began to embark on a welterweight sabbatical that has produced arguably the best results of his career.
Originally designed as a way to stay busy after suffering a second loss to then-lightweight champ Rafael Dos Anjos, the shift to the 170-pound weight class has yielded three consecutive victories for Cerrone, each more impressive than the last while vaulting him into the Top 10. On November 12 in New York City, he’ll look to make it four straight and potentially crack the Top 5 when he takes on Kelvin Gastelum on the main card of UFC 205, the organization’s historic debut at Madison Square Garden.
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“I wasn’t coaching him during the ‘55 days, but I definitely worked a lot of cards with other fighters and saw what Cowboy had to go through to make ‘55,” said Gibson, who believes his work with Cerrone’s long-time wrestling coach Jafari Vanier in the corner of bantamweight stud John Dodson helped paved the way for him to join the coaching staff at the BMF Ranch. “Now it’s like Cowboy’s been saying lately – he has a little more meat on the biscuit; a little more weight on him, a little more muscle and the cuts aren’t as excruciating and we’re seeing it in his performance.
“He’s already ranked No. 6 but it’s not just him at 170 – I feel like Cowboy is evolving his game, which is hard for a lot of veterans.”
"It’s like Cowboy’s been saying lately – he has a little more meat on the biscuit; a little more weight on him, a little more muscle and the cuts aren’t as excruciating and we’re seeing it in his performance." --Brandon Gibson, BMF striking coach
Though his February victory over Alex Oliveira in the UFC’s first “Battle of the Cowboys” was impressive, his last two efforts are the ones that have really opened a lot of eyes and made many people sit up and wonder if the former WEC standout perennial lightweight contender is even better as a welterweight.
In June, Cerrone became the first man ever to stop Patrick Cote due to strikes, finishing the former middleweight contender with a hail of punches along the fence midway through the third round after controlling the action with perfectly timed takedowns and expert work on the canvas. Two months later, he showed even more against Rick Story at UFC 202, finishing the durable welterweight veteran with a four-strike combo straight out of Street Fighter V that was brilliant to watch in real time and even more breathtaking as a slow-motion replay.
Next up is Gastelum, the 25-year-old former TUF winner who enters off the biggest win of his career – a unanimous decision victory over former champ Johny Hendricks at UFC 200 in July.
Originally, Cerrone was set to face another former champion, Robbie Lawler, in a bout that had everyone salivating as thoughts of the violent symphony those two would have conducted danced through their heads, but Gastelum is no joke, and while Gibson is excited for the pairing, he’s more excited about seeing what more Cowboy can do in his new weight class in November and beyond.
“We have a super-tough fight ahead of us with Gastelum,” offered Gibson, one of the sharpest coaching minds in the sport. “I was very excited about Robbie Lawler, I’m still very excited about Kelvin, but I’m more excited about what we can do at welterweight.
“Obviously, his kickboxing has always been a threat and his jiu-jitsu has always been a threat, but now, his footwork, his defense, his wrestling, his boxing – all those areas are getting better, along with the fact that he feels so good at welterweight. He feels good, we’re getting the right matchups and now he’s a more technical, faster fighter than all these guys he’s facing and we’ve just got to keep this ride going.”
While Cerrone is one of few fighters who truly lives by the “Anyone, Anywhere, Any Time” mentality, even Gibson has to admit that being a part of massive events brings a little something extra out of every fighter, even a “been there, done that, keep your ******* t-shirt” veteran like Cerrone.
And he believes it will bring out the best in his charge.
“I think he definitely has that side to him where he’d fight anyone, anywhere, any time,” laughed Gibson when asked if Cerrone would just as readily face Gastelum in the “Back 40” at the Ranch as make the trek to MSG next month. “Some of these Fight Night cards he headlined weren’t the biggest cards, but UFC 202, UFC 205, those are the kind of fights that every fighter wants to be on and I know he’s excited to go to Madison Square Garden and New York City.
“You’re going to see the best Cowboy ever come UFC 205.”