At 33 years old and with 40 fights under his belt, it wouldn’t be too harsh to suggest that perhaps Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone’s athletic prime is a year or two in the past.
But that seems to be of no concern to the long-time Jackson-Winklejohn fighter and owner of the BMF Ranch. Cerrone appears happy as long as there is either an ice-cold beer in his hand or a 4oz glove wrapped around it.
The Columbus, Ohio-born striker is a fan favourite in almost every sense. His blend or hard-hitting kickboxing and aggressive submission-chasing ground attack forms the kind of style which rarely fails to deliver a hair-raising and exhilarating fight, in turn making him a regular recipient of the UFC’s Performance of the Night bonuses.
While, aside from his technical proficiency inside the Octagon, Cerrone’s laid-back, everyman demeanour and willingness to fight anybody, at any weight, anytime, has earned him the respect and admiration of a large chunk of the MMA fanbase; “Cowboy” is the one fighter everyone would love to hangout with at the bar, and a useful man to have at your side should any trouble arise.
But the one thing that he is not, and, as yet, has never been, is a champion within a major organisation.
As a lightweight for the majority of his career, Cerrone has been a perennial contender – first in the WEC, now in the UFC.
He twice fought and lost to his good friend Benson Henderson for the WEC title in 2009 and 2010, and also came up short against Jamie Varner for the same belt earlier in his career.
His continual wreckage of would-be contenders eventually earned him a shot at the UFC’s lightweight strap in December 2015, pitting him against then-champion Rafael dos Anjos, a dominant grappler and powerful striker; the Brazilian forced a TKO stoppage early in the first round.
After that defeat, Cerrone made the jump up to welterweight. With his chances of receiving anther title shot having dwindled, he was presumably tired of making the gruelling cut to 155lbs, and instead decided to fight closer to his natural weight and maybe even enjoy his craft a little more.
But it proved to be a masterstroke from a career perspective. The veteran kickboxer has won four fights in a row, all by stoppage. The increase in weight seems to have lifted a burden from the fighter’s shoulders and he is reaping the benefits.
Scheduled to face Jorge Masvidal at UFC on Fox 23 on 28 January, another impressive win will surely see Cerrone in contention for another stab at UFC gold. The step up to 170lbs might be the biggest forward step that “Cowboy” has ever taken.