The UFC's all-time wins record might be a transitive beast for the next few weeks.
An odd wrinkle in the fight company's upcoming schedule has all four of the fighters with the most career Octagon victories in action between now and Nov. 4. That run begins Saturday, when Donald Cerrone (19 UFC wins) takes on upstart Darren Till in the main event of UFC Fight Night 118.
If Cerrone beats Till, it'll move him into a tie with middleweight champion Michael Bisping (20) as the winningest competitors in UFC history. Depending how it goes for Cerrone, it also gives him a chance to pad a few of his other already impressive UFC numbers:
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.@CowboyCerrone is one of the UFC's best knockdown artists. Will he increase his total vs. Darren Till at UFC Poland next Saturday? https://t.co/wCYxG4U8CZ2017-10-16 22:18:46
On Oct. 28, Damien Maia (19 victories) can make it a three-way tie atop the wins leaderboard, as he takes on Colby Covington at UFC Fight Night 119.
As if that weren't already enough, Bisping could retake the overall lead with a win over former welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre (19 wins) in that pair's superfight at UFC 217 on Nov. 4.
If not? Then St-Pierre could make it a four-man logjam in the history books, with everybody possibly tied up at 20 wins apiece.
As you can see, this under-the-radar race to see who can win the most fights ever in the UFC is neck and neck.
The bad news for the field, however, is that Cerrone has the inside track to ultimately come out ahead.
Considering the breakneck pace at which he fights, The Cowboy is on pace to stand alone with the all-time wins record by the time he hangs up his gloves.
Cerrone has been the UFC's resident wild man since arriving in the Octagon from the WEC in 2011. Since then, he's set a torrid pace, fighting five times in 2011 and then four times each year from 2013 through 2016. Along the way, he's won 12 of the organization's performance-based fight-night bonuses while putting up an overall record of 19-6.
The Colorado native's "work hard, play hard" ethos has made him so well-liked that Cerrone has created his own cottage industry inside the UFC. Though he's fought once for the lightweight championship and consistently faces top competition, he exists on his own plane, outside the rat race of the UFC's divisional title pictures.
Fans love Cerrone regardless if he's winning or losing. They see his love for the sport and Clint Eastwood-style, down-for-whatever squint and latch onto it.
Now 34 years old, Cerrone knows his high-octane approach can't go on forever. By his own estimation, he'll be done before he turns 40.
"My three things that I really, really want, that I think the fight game needs, because I'm ending my career in three, four more years. I need some retirement," Cerone said in late 2016, via MMAjunkie's Mike Bohn and Ken Hathaway. "A pension. Some kind of health care. Those are three things I think the sport really needs, so that's what I'm looking for."
Even with that limited window, however, Cerrone likely still has the upper hand on Bisping, St-Pierre and Maia.
Maia is already 39 and almost certainly nearing the end of his career. While a couple years younger, both Bisping and St-Pierre have acknowledged they too won't be around forever.
For St-Pierre, 36, this fight marks his return from his first extended hiatus from the sport. Following a hard-fought welterweight victory over Johny Hendricks in November 2013, GSP walked away from MMA, citing the various psychological pressures of being champion.
Now he's back, but it remains unclear for how long.
Bisping, 38, has gone as far as to say UFC 217 might be his last fight.
"I think the career I've had, the years I've been in the UFC, the injuries I've had, the ups and downs, getting close to title fights and all of this, there's a possibility—this might be my last ever fight," Bisping said recently, via MMA Fighting's Shaun Al-Shatti. "I don't know if I'll fight again after this. So, what a way to go out if it is."
In true Bisping fashion, however, The Count has also waffled on that point.
Regardless, it's unlikely either Bisping or St-Pierre has anywhere near the number of fights left in the tank as Cerrone. Even if Cowboy plans to call it quits in a few years, it's not unthinkable he might have dozen more fights planned, especially if he's intent on building a nest egg for himself.
That means Cerrone is very likely to become the winningest fighter in UFC history by the time he's all done.
Assuming that does happen, how long could Cerrone be reasonably assured of holding onto the record? That depends. There is a gaggle of other active fighters within striking distance of the all-time mark.
Anderson Silva (42) and Jim Miller (34) each have 17 UFC wins, and each has a fight coming up. Silva takes on Kelvin Gastelum on Nov. 25, and Miller fights Francisco Trinaldo on Oct. 28.
Jon Jones (30), Frankie Edgar (36), Rafael Dos Anjos (32), Gleison Tibau (34) and Diego Sanchez (35) all have 16 UFC wins. Edgar, Sanchez and Dos Anjos all have upcoming bouts scheduled, but Jones and Tibau are on the bench dealing with the fallout from failed drug tests.
Tibau is already serving a two-year ban handed down in early 2016.
|Active fighters with the most UFC wins|
|Rafael Dos Anjos||16|
Jones, who might be the most interesting case of the above group, still faces an uncertain future. The former light heavyweight champion might well already have the all-time wins record sewn up if he hadn't spent significant periods of his career dealing with self-inflicted crises.
Jones has fought just once each year since 2014, and the worst-case scenario following his second positive test for performance-enhancing drugs has him staring down the possibility of a four-year suspension. Obviously, how that positive test is ultimately handled by the UFC will have a lot to do with Jones' future.
Other active notables with a chance of catching Cerrone include men's flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson (15 wins) and men's featherweight champ Max Holloway (14). Both those guys are still very much in their athletic primes, but still far enough away that it would take a few years for them to catch up.
For now, we're left to assume that Cerrone has the best shot to retire as the UFC's iron man, and that would be a fitting accolade to cap the career of The Cowboy.