Donald Cerrone Is Rewriting the Playbook on What It Means to Be a UFC Fighter

Bradley Popkin@@bradpopkinmmaCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2015

Donald Cerrone searches for his seventh straight victory when the takes on Benson Henderson in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: Boston.
Donald Cerrone searches for his seventh straight victory when the takes on Benson Henderson in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: Boston.USA TODAY Sports

Third-ranked UFC lightweight Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone is pegged to make the quickest turnaround of his mixed martial arts career when he faces former lightweight champion, and adversary, Benson Henderson at UFC Fight Night: Boston. 

Cowboy, who's no stranger to taking a fight on short notice, does it one more time when he fills in for an ill Eddie Alvarez. The 31-year-old went against UFC President Dana White's wishes and accepted the proposal for his second fight in 15 days. 

For Cerrone, his will to fight is all natural. Diagnosed with attention deficit disorder when he was a child, Cowboy got into fights often. Since his debut in the UFC in February 2011, he has fought 16 times.

"There's no name that comes across the table that I'm like, ‘oh damn, I'm can't take that.' No, let's go. Let's fight. It's what we do. It's what I'm paid to do. It's my job," Cerrone told MMA Fighting.

Some might say he's redefining what it means to be a mixed martial artist. You'll never find Cerrone filming a season of The Ultimate Fighter or waiting in line for a title shot. Like the Budweiser brand he sponsors, Cowboy is simply down for whatever. 

Jan 3, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) and Myles Jury (blue gloves) in their lightweight bout at UFC 182 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Life is never at a standstill for the Jackson/Winkeljohn MMA product. The known extreme-sport junkie is always pushing boundaries in and out of the Octagon. So when it came time to assess his win over Myles Jury at UFC 182, Cerrone remained critical of his performance. 

Cerrone, who at first had hopes of fighting on the upcoming UFC card in his hometown of Denver, Colorado, now will take aim at a man he is very familiar with. Henderson, the former 155-pound champ who tied B.J. Penn for most title defenses in the division's history, bested Cowboy in two previous burgeoning meetings in the WEC. 

But you would be mistaken if you thought that the man, who collects performance bonuses as fast as White changes his mind, hasn't changed in the five years since the two fought. Cerrone has only lost three times in the UFC and is the owner of a six-fight win streak. He can ill-afford to lose at this juncture if he wants a crack at the belt, and no one knows what he's risking more than Cowboy.

“I wouldn’t take this fight on short notice, one, if I wasn’t sh-t bat loony, and two, if I didn’t think I could beat Ben,” he told MMA Junkie. “I’m excited and confident and trying to go out there Sunday night and whip the sh-t out of him."

He's honed all of his tools in this winning streak that has spanned over 14 months. One of the division's most electrifying fighters, Cerrone is accomplished anywhere the fight goes and will undoubtedly make life difficult for Henderson.

Both men are incredibly difficult to submit, hard to take down and are known for their nasty kicks. Each of them are hungry to get back in the hunt for gold. 

When the Cowboy has lost it has been when he has lost control of his emotions, or had been controlled on the ground. Losing does not just erase his streak but it will force him to contemplate whether he is truly part of the lightweight division's elite. 

Two of Cerrone's three UFC losses have come against the current champion, Anthony Pettis, and the current top contender, Rafael dos Anjos. Henderson also knows both well, having lost to both Pettis and, most recently, Dos Anjos at UFC Fight Night back on August 23.

It's hard not to like Cowboy. His persona—one of a blue-collar, beer-drinking, action-sports fanatic—transcends various age groups. He's a company guy— a "yes" man—who will take on whoever, whenever. Will that be what ultimately leads to his downfall?

There are benefits to fighting as often as Cerrone does; the pay is great. He's racked up $500,000 in performance bonuses, inside the UFC, and typically earns in the range of $125,000-$150,000 per fight. 

And could it also have just a little bit to do with the fact that he loves fighting, so much that preparation isn't a concern in his bout with Henderson?

"Prepare? S--t, I don't even have enough time to prepare a cake," Cerrone remarked during the conference call for UFC Boston. "What are you talking about, prepare? I'm just going in there fighting. I've got enough time to cut weight and get to Boston."

He also doesn't think that his second weight cut in the span of a couple of weeks will hinder him much.

"[That's] probably damaging, for sure. But so is cocaine and alcohol, so I think this is a little less," said Cowboy. 

In an era where injuries are plentiful, events are canceled and fighters wither away waiting for shots at UFC gold, Cerrone bank and trust is always open for business.

He's rewriting the playbook of how to be an MMA fighter. He's also as durable as they come, having never pulled out of a bout yet in his career. On a January 18 fight night card, that includes a headliner featuring Conor McGregor, Cerrone will look to steal the show against Smooth in Boston. 

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