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Donald Cerrone - Cowboy on The Move

“There’s always pressure to stay alive in the UFC, that’s the name of the game.  You’ve got to stay on top.”
2010 was supposed to be the biggest year in sports for the name, Cowboy.  In Dallas, NFL owner Jerry Jones, who is the pied piper of the name, built a stadium so large that the world had to bow down to Cowboy blue.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you talk to) although the stadium will host the 2011 Super Bowl, his ‘boys will not do battle within it on that February day.  

Likewise in MMA, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone was on the WEC lightweight title belt hunt and 2010 looked to be his time to hoist it above the heads of his peers.  After all, in 2009 he twice received the chance to achieve the greatest honor any division contender can receive and both times, although valiant in effort, he could not grasp the gold.  

It started in January 2009 against his nemesis, Jamie Varner, who took a split technical decision and then again in October 2009 against Ben Henderson, with whom he shared Fight of the Night Honors.  Yet after avenging his loss to Varner via unanimous decision and closing out his year with a submission finish of Chris Horodecki in the swan song event of the WEC, MMA’s Cowboy is ready to start his year anew and in the UFC, no less.  This cowboy is holding the banner for them all and making his move.

“I’m super excited,” he said. “When I first came into the WEC I knew the time would come (that I would enter the UFC) and now with the merger and everything I was kind of forced into it.  Am I ready?  Yeah I’m definitely ready and when they called me I took the fight on short notice and said yes before I even knew who I was fighting so I’m definitely ready for it.”

As a WEC Lightweight, Cerrone was blessed to have a king’s reception.  He was highly marketed, most of the time occupying the main or co-main poster boy slot.  However, entering the UFC, the stakes are a lot higher as the competition within the division is the deepest in the entire world, and with the merger of the two brands, one can only assume that even big names might be lost in the fray.  Like any self-respecting cowboy, however, Cerrone is confident in his seemingly innate ability to rise to the top.

“It’s a very deep division, that’s why I’m excited. I want to go in there and mark my place and be one of the top fighters in the world.  I’m in the big show.  I train with a lot of top guys in the UFC lightweight division now as a part of my team.  I do my thing in the gym and when it comes to game time I feel good, so I’m confident I can go in there and be one of the top ten.”

Wasting no time, the UFC brass have handed Cerrone his first UFC test in the form of British scrap artist Paul Kelly.  A 15-fight veteran, Kelly has had most of his fights in the UFC since entering the Octagon for the first time in 2008.  At 5-3 in the organization and coming off a TKO victory over T.J. O’Brien at UFC 123, Kelly is known to be a real fighter.  And having sent Troy Mandaloniz and Matt Veach out of the UFC, Kelly has the proven power to stop the rise of MMA standouts. Cerrone welcomes the challenge.

“I absolutely think this is a good fight for me; I think all fights are a good fight for me.  He’s a UK scrapper and he wants to come out and throw down and I love to throw down so if he wants to stand there and bang I’m 100% game for it. He’s definitely got good hooks out of both hands, and he’s got a good chin.”

With the recent cuts being made at the UFC, Cerrone knows he has to be on point, and WEC poster child or not, his new peers are ready for him.  Surely, after being lauded in the WEC, Cerrone is aware of the invisible target on his back and on those of the other WEC standouts.

“There’s always pressure to stay alive in the UFC, that’s the name of the game.  You’ve got to stay on top.”

Luckily, Cerrone trains in the house that Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn built, and for this camp, he was fortunate enough to train with a treasure trove of MMA standouts.

“I trained with the same guys: Joe “Daddy” Stevenson, Clay Guida, Melvin Guillard, and all those guys were getting ready for a fight.  I worked a lot with Johnny “Bones” (Jones) and everyone that’s in camp.  Rashad (Evans) is in camp right now, Nate Marquardt just left and we have a lot of the family that came together; it all worked out for this camp.”

The MMA world will watch Cerrone’s transition from WEC stalwart to possible UFC veteran very closely.  But for him, it’s all about improvement and respect to those that have placed him on any pedestal.
 
“My fans can expect just a more dynamic ‘Cowboy.’  I’m working on my wrestling, and I’m working to just expand everything, so they can just expect to see me at the top.”

 

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