In this handout image provided by UFC, (L-R) Donald Cerrone...

In this handout image provided by UFC, (L-R) Donald Cerrone punches Niko Price in their welterweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on September 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Credit: Zuffa/LLC via Getty Images/Handout

Multiple record-keeping websites and fight-related people needed to be consulted in order to confirm the veracity of this upcoming sentence that at one point in time sounded more like something out of The Onion than it does non-satirical outlets.

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone has not fought in a year.

One full year. An exact 365 days will have passed from Cerrone’s last fight to his next one this Saturday night at UFC 274 against Joe Lauzon.

“It was much-needed time off,” Cerrone said Wednesday during media day in Phoenix. “I took a break because everyone says getting into the UFC is the most important thing they could ever do in their life. I agree with them on that. But when they get here, they seem to put the brakes on and kind of quit. They make it all the way here, they do so hard to get here and then they put the brakes on. I caught myself ridiculing these kids for doing that and then I was doing the exact same thing.”

Cerrone always was the ultimate fighter, his “anytime, anywhere, anyone” approach earning him the love and respect of MMA fans, fighters and promoters.

Not seeing Cerrone, 39, in the octagon for a year may not be all that weird, as every athlete eventually meets his or her end of sporting days, especially after five losses and a no contest in his six bouts since the summer of 2019. But writing it or saying it out loud certainly is a bit strange. Before 2021, the last time “Cowboy” only had one professional MMA fight in a calendar year was never. From 2006 through 2020, though — anyone, anywhere, anytime.

“My last two years, I did nothing I had to do," Cerrone said. "I just would go to train. I’m not making excuses. I just didn’t do what I needed to do. Preparation is a direct effect of what my career has spiraled into. So it’s time to rectify that and fight for legacy, baby.”

With such a long layoff — a near eternity for someone with Cerrone’s history — no doubt the idea of retirement popped up once or twice, right?

“A hundred percent,” Cerrone said. “There’s a couple times where I was like, ‘I’m just going to take a break until I want to come back, I feel it in me, or I won’t. I don’t care. And then one day I woke up and I called my coaches and said fly down here were taking a fight. They’re like, ‘What? When? I was like, ‘I don’t know but we’re doing it.’ I just felt it in me. I wanted to do it. So here I am.”

But a resume with 54 fights on it just isn’t the same as one with 55 fights. So here we are with one more RV parked outside for one more fight week for one more chance to get it in. The opponent this time: Joe Lauzon, himself an 18-year veteran who actually predates Cerrone in the UFC and mixed martial arts.

That these two fighters with a total of 97 fights over a combined 34 years in MMA have never faced each other is something of a unique anomaly. But to hear Cerrone tell the story, the two fighters made sure to make their meeting in the twilight of their careers a memorable moment.

“This is not an Apex fight,” Cerrone said.

They were originally targeted for last weekend's UFC Fight Night at the UFC Apex, the promotion’s in-house (and small) venue in Las Vegas. Cerrone (36-16, 2 no contests) wanted a crowd for this fight. He said that he called Lauzon (28-15) and got him to back him up in texts to UFC president Dana White saying that April 30 wouldn’t work and that they should be on the big, pay-per-view card this Saturday at the Footprint Center in Phoenix.

“I want to fight in front of a crowd. I love the crowd,” Cerrone said. “When 20,000 people are chanting your name and screaming, whoa, there’s not a feeling like it in the world.”

One person in particular will be in this crowd on Saturday: Dacson Danger Cerrone.

That’s Cerrone’s son, who now almost at age 4 understands and remembers far more than he did earlier when he was that cute little baby with headphones on inside the arena for his daddy’s fights.

When Cerrone started to think about his son on the podium Wednesday, he needed 25 seconds to start and finish a 19-word sentence.

“I can’t uh,” Cerrone said as he fought back his fatherly emotions.

Six seconds passed.

“I can’t wait …”

Nine seconds later …

“To walk out of that tunnel ..."

Seven more seconds …

“And see the look on his face.”

A few more seconds went by as his eyes watered, but Cerrone gathered himself enough to keep going.

“He knows finally what I do,” Cerrone said. “It’s crazy how emotional I get. Any time I was working out and I didn’t want to do it, that’s what I thought of. I can’t wait. I can not wait to see him smile like, ‘Wow, this is my dad.’ That’s why I wanted a sold-out crowd. To walk out of that tunnel, blow the roof off this place and look over and see my son like, ‘Wow, dad that’s you.’”

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