Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and his outright refusal to ride into the sunset is the best story in all of MMA right now. Cerrone parading his son around the octagon after yet another impressive win was more than heartwarming. To me, and to many others, it was a relatable moment. I must admit, as a media member, I am a fan of no fighters. That being said, it’s hard for me not to quietly root for Cerrone. He reminds me of every tough, salt of the earth type of guy that I grew up with in Boston. I love that about people. No frills, no glitz, just all man. I have another confession though, I all but left Cerrone’s career for dead after his brutal TKO defeat at the hands of Darren Till. Then there was the decision loss to Leon Edwards. I snickered when Cerrone announced that he was moving back to the loaded lion’s den that is the UFC’s lightweight division. Many factors were working against him. Nothing less than the fact that at age 36 that weight cut was going to be brutal, and Cerrone looked a little weakened at Friday’s weigh-ins. Let us not forget that the UFC’s 155-lb division is the best division at this moment in the history of the promotion. One through fifteen is an absolute bat cave of different styles, veterans, and up-and-comers alike.
None of this boded well for Cerrone. After three impressive wins in a row, Cerrone has never shined brighter than right now. A submission victory over Mike Perry in the final UFC Fight Night on FS1 was the precursor to a dominant victory in Brooklyn over Alex Hernandez. I watched that fight live. Cerrone looked like the teacher, schooling the proverbial student after class, and smartening him up to his wise ways. Leaving dopes like myself who picked against Cerrone in that fight in his wake. I picked against Cerrone with good reason. At that point in time, Cerrone was sort of stuck, a perennial Fight Night main eventer who could just never grab the brass ring. Ask pro wrestling fans, that story is time told and is always an easy sell. Having a character like Cowboy makes it all the better. He is just so damn likable.
Saturday night was the litmus test for me. It was less about Cerrone for me and more about his opponent. There is certainly no bigger fan of ”Raging” Al Iaquinta’s fighting style than me. Iaquinta is a high motor, no quit tough guy who can wrestle and strike with anyone. Precisely the type of fighter that Cerrone has struggled with in the past. Cerrone faced adversity last night against the Long Island real estate agent Saturday night. I had Cerrone down two rounds to none going into the 3rd. Much like his career, Cerrone resurged. His counters and his striking nearly earned him a knockout of Iaquinta, who by the way has never been knocked down in his career, never mind knocked out. Cerrone showed heart, grit, and toughness, which is precisely why his story is the best in MMA right now.
Everybody loves a comeback. Everybody loves an athlete that is fighting for something. Clearly, Cerrone with his new son in tow is on a mission. After his decision win last night, Cerrone yet again called for Conor McGregor. Normally, McGregor, the brash trash talker is always the biggest story in the UFC. Let’s hope these two do end up across the cage from each other soon. Cerrone will be the fan favorite. He is just so much more relatable than the rich, whiskey entrepreneur McGregor who has not won a mixed martial arts contest in two and a half years.
The UFC will be smart to embrace this renaissance of “Cowboy” Cerrone. Just look at the landscape, Jon Jones will always be mired in his PED failures and away from the octagon arrests. He will never be fully embraced. McGregor is mostly in the news now for smashing cell phones and picking on fighter’s wives on Twitter. The Diaz brothers are cartoon characters now and Israel Adesanya is almost there, but not there yet. Build Cerrone now, it will pay off later. Especially if Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is rightly heavily favored, beats Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 and retains his lightweight title. Nurmagomedov, for better or worse is a villain now, who better than Donald Cerrone to defend truth justice and the American way? Regardless if that fight ever materializes, Cerrone’s resurgence is the best story in all of MMA right now.