In this week’s edition of Fighter of the Week, we pay tribute to the sport of MMA’s most game fighter – the man who calls himself the ‘Cowboy’, Donald Cerrone.
The issue of post-career head trauma has been in constant discussion within MMA circles ever since the sport’s inception over twenty years ago. As the game has modernized, the awareness of what could go wrong in retirement has increased for sure – but at the end of the day, fighters will always be fighters.
If you ask Donald Cerrone if he’s worried about going too hard at it, he’ll more than likely tell you he’s just in for a good time while he still can have it.
Cowboy isn’t like most fighters. A lot of them say they’ll fight anyone, anywhere at anytime but in reality – and understandably so – when it comes down to it, there are many realistic factors that will hold them back from being that ‘fighter’s fighter.
The type of men are few and far between who will take on a dangerous matchup on short-notice – or attempt to bounce back from a brutal loss with an even more difficult proposition.
Cerrone takes Leon Edwards this weekend at UFC Singapore, a prospect who has looked to be on the brink of getting himself into that welterweight top-10.
No one wants to see the veteran Cowboy as a gatekeeper for the division but following his brutal UFC Gdansk loss to Darren Till, the dynamic that was felt between the two in the fight’s immediate aftermath was unquestionable.
He didn’t exactly appear to be fussed about the Liverpudlian Till’s pedigree going in. Not many people were. Cowboy signed the contract against this relative unknown – again, like most of us, questioning exactly how this young man managed to get himself into a headlining spot at such an early point in his rise.
The worst fears of those close to Cerrone were confirmed as Darren Till steamrolled him in the first-round, using the win as a springboard to launch his own superstar status within the promotion.
In truth, Donald’s sheer love of fighting seemed to work against him on this one. Back-to-back losses to both Jorge Masvidal and a gruelling war against Robbie Lawler saw him come in as a more weathered soldier – which when coupled with the kickboxing prowess of his opponent, was a recipe for disaster.
But that’s the thing. If you asked him now, he’d probably regret nothing.
His time at lightweight saw him establish himself as a fan-favourite and while he did record some fantastic wins over the likes of Edson Barboza, Benson Henderson and Eddie Alvarez, to name but a few, championship success eluded him.
As one of the finest fighters to never get their hands on that coveted UFC gold, his eventual switch to welterweight was one of the surprise stories of the modern era.
Picked as the underdog in each of his opening four 170lb bouts, Cerrone managed to finish each and every one of them – taking out Patrick Cote, Alex Oliveira, Matt Brown, and Rick Story on his way to eventually losing out in a top contender battle with Jorge Masvidal.
But the Cowboy who went on that run looked like a different animal entirely.
Who can forget his vicious war with Matt Brow? This was a fight where regardless of how they felt about each other in the fight’s leadup, they couldn’t help but show respect for a moment just before ‘the Immortal’ got his lights switched off by one of his opponent’s patented head-kicks.
Or how about the now-legendary four-shot combo he used to close out the show against Rick Story? For those who actually that bout live, it was like seeing a choreographed sequence out of a movie.
There was no way that could actually work in a real matchup. But it did, and Cerrone picked up one of his most impressive wins against a fighter, in Story, who is a pretty solid top-15 170lb-r.
Basically, he might not have many fights left – especially if things don’t go so well for him this weekend but honestly, when it’s all laid out on the table, how on earth can you dislike this guy?
He stands for everything we should value in these athletes. His attitude is one that doesn’t give a sh*t about his own health and whether you agree with that or not, respect is due because, at the end of the day, we’re the ones who tune in to watch these fight-cards and regardless of how you see the sport as a whole, entertainment is a massive part of it and Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone is solid gold.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena