The new and improved Donald Cerrone showed up at UFC Ottawa on Saturday night, overcoming a hard start against Al Iaquinta to take a dominant decision victory that puts him back in lightweight contention (watch the highlights here). That’s an impressive place for him to be, given the slump he suffered through in 2017 that saw him go 0-3 at welterweight.
But big changes in his life like severing ties with former camp Jackson-Winkeljohn and the birth of his son Dacson “Danger” Cerrone have served him well. After his win he was more than willing to toss the old “Cowboy” under the bus, declaring this UFC Ottawa win to be exactly the kind of fight he’d have lost back in the day.
”Like I was telling my corners, I felt terrible starting that fight,” Cerrone admitted during a post-fight media scrum (video via MMA Fighting). “Couldn’t find it in the locker room I didn’t want to warm up. I didn’t want to get ready, I didn’t want to hit pads, I didn’t want to wrestle. I didn’t want to fight until the second round. People always say I’m a slow starter and What Cowboy you gonna get? We train hard, we train so hard and we try and find for our opponents to beat us so that we can show up and beat them on our worst day. Today was my worst day, man.”
”Thank God it’s been 41 fights in Zuffa that I’ve been here because I was able to fake it til you make it, cuz you fake it long enough and you find it. In the second round it was like, there it is and let’s go to work. It’s just tough, because I think the younger me would have quit. It’s just crazy, but there’s like memes out there of lions with little cubs saying ‘I would have quit until I realized who was watching’ and it was like, yeah, motherf**ker, let’s go!”
Slow-start Cerrone has been a thing for years dating all the way back to his WEC days a decade ago. We’d say it’s not a great idea to admit your shortcomings to the media and all potential opponents listening, but everyone is already well aware of the situation. How to fix it? That’s a tougher nut to crack.
”It was tough finding it tonight, so I don’t have the answer,” Cerrone said. “I don’t know what I need to do differently. I felt great, I woke up feeling on fire. Sitting at the mall hanging out everything felt good then I got here and everything felt guuuuuh. Which Cowboy you get is a crapshoot. If it was Al, he had my number, he should have just f**king turned it on in the first round because I was lost. I don’t know where I was, but I wasn’t in the fight.”
”The younger me would have just tried to look for a way out. It’s so crazy, this sport. I don’t know how to explain because I don’t have the words for it. Some days you’re on fire, some days you’re not. It’s not like an NFL team where I can fall back and let the rest of the team pick up the slack. You have a bad day, you get your ass whipped.”
This time “Cowboy” dug deep and stuck in there, pulling out the win and putting himself within striking distance of a UFC lightweight title shot. Of course, that’s all dependent on the big money superstars lurking in the division staying out of his way. Current champ Khabib Nurmagomedov is already booked to defend against Dustin Poirier in September, and he isn’t exactly the most active fighter on the roster. There’s also the chance Conor McGregor could skip the line and fight Khabib next, even coming off a loss.
If Cerrone has it his way, McGregor would have to fight him first. And that does seem like the logical choice to get McGregor back to the title in a legitimate way. First, the Irish superstar and UFC would have to work out their many current financial disagreements. With McGregor making more off his Proper 12 whiskey in the dying months of 2018 than he did fighting Khabib, we have to wonder if he’s still in the UFC’s price range at all.