Fans have never had to question whether Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone wanted to fight. But as his losses have piled up, there are questions about how long he can.
Facing a five-fight skid, Cerrone made it known before UFC Vegas 11 that he – and not his promoter – wants be the one to retire when that time comes.
“I don’t even want to think of losing and all the things that could happen, because I’ve trained my ass off and I’m ready to rock and roll, but I plan on being here for a long time,” he said in advance of his co-headliner opposite Niko Price on Saturday at UFC APEX. “I’m going to leave when I’m done. I don’t ever want the walking papers. When Cowboy’s done fighting, I’m going to bend my hat and I’m going to say, ‘Alright boys, I’ve had enough, I’m out.’ I don’t ever want to have them call my manager and release me. That would totally suck.
“But I’m going to keep fighting my ass off. This fight’s for me, man. All the naysayers, the people that say you’ve lost four in a row, you don’t belong, you should be retiring, I don’t give a sh*t. I don’t care if I need to prove anything. I don’t care if I prove something. This one’s just for me.
“I’ve got to look at myself in the mirror on Saturday morning and when I go, ‘Let’s go, baby, this is for you, Cowboy,’ I get to have all the fun I want, with no expectations, no must-wins, no must-dos, no nothing. Just go and fight my fight and love every second of it and enjoy it. And that’s how I’m going to be victorious, no matter how the fight comes out – this one’s for me.”
Cerrone, 37, hoped to turn things around in his previous outing, a UFC 249 meeting with his former WEC colleague and ex-champ Anthony Pettis. But after three rounds, he lost a decision, leaving him without a win since a May 2019 outing against Al Iaquinta.
For most fighters, a 16-month timeframe isn’t that long. But Cerrone is perpetually stuck in the fast lane, competing at a faster clip than the rest of the roster. The only thing that’s slowed him down a bit is fatherhood and domestic responsibility.
The line on Cerrone historically is that he overthinks big fights and fails to live up to his potential. When unburdened by expectations, he delivers wildly above them, cutting highlight reel after highlight reel. But as he heads into his 36th UFC fight, there is doubt about how many times he can turn things around.
Cerrone, of course, doesn’t heed any of that talk. To him, the loss to Pettis marked a positive turning point.
“I don’t really dwell on that,” he said. “It doesn’t weigh me down. This is what, 37, or 38 in the UFC. I’ve done it so many times, and yeah, those setbacks suck, they suck, they suck, but man, I’m ready to rock. I feel great. The energy of the Anthony Pettis fight, I carried over into this. I got the hunger back. I don’t know if it ever went anywhere, but sometimes, it’s hard to be hungry when you’re full.
“I started making a lot of money and started getting real lazy. Maybe it took getting my ass beat and wiped across the mat a couple of times to rekindle the fire. It worked, I’m here, I’m ready, so Saturday night, maybe you’ll see a new and improved Cowboy Cerrone making one more motherf*cking run, baby.”
Or, he may not. But as long as Cerrone manages to have some fun, he’s doing what he’s supposed to do.
“The Pettis fight got me excited about training and having good time with the whole training and sparring and fighting and jiu-jitsu,” he said. “So I was already in a good place, and then we had these new group of kids that have been coming up and training at the Ranch, and the young, new fighters, they love sparring, so that’s what we did – a lot of sparring, a lot of training, a lot of playing. And it re-light the fire that I had. I would look forward to those days again. I would look forward to having fun. Such as weird career path, this fighting game.
“But my message to Niko with all this sparring is, never underestimate the old man when the guys die young in this sport. I’m still here, I’m still fighting hard, and I’m f*cking more ready than ever.”