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UFC Ottawa: The staying power of Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone

UFC lightweight Donald Cerrone at Gleason's Gym in

UFC lightweight Donald Cerrone at Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn on Jan. 16, 2019. Photo Credit: Newsday / Ryan Gerbosi

With age and experience comes perspective. Fatherhood helps develop the bigger picture as well.

Donald Cerrone has 36 years of life on this earth, the wear and tear of 77 professional fights on his body and one 10-month-old son named Dacson Danger Cerrone to help shape how he sees the world.

“Cowboy” Cerrone is not that young cowboy anymore, the one throwing caution to the wind with double-barrel hand gestures and a string of cusses. He’s an elder statesman of mixed martial arts now (and some cussin' remains).

“I tell all these young kids, they’re all dreaming of making the UFC,” Cerrone said. “Man, it’s not the point of just making it, it’s staying here.”

Cerrone has done just that. Saturday night’s lightweight fight against Wantagh’s Al Iaquinta at UFC Ottawa will be Cerrone’s 41st under the Zuffa banner. (Zuffa LLC is the parent company of UFC, who also owned WEC where Cerrone fought previously.) That’s a record.

Cerrone has 22 wins in the UFC. That’s a record.

Of those 22 wins, 16 came by either knockout or submission. That’s a record.

It will be Cerrone’s 31st bout in the UFC. That’s almost a record. (Jim Miller, who fought last weekend at UFC Fort Lauderdale, has 32.)

“The 41 is pretty awesome, to be honest with you,” Cerrone said. 

Such records are borne equally of a desire to fight “anywhere, anytime, anybody,” as Cerrone always had said, plus the good fortune of staying healthy in a sport that taxes the entire body in ways other sports do not. The last time Cerrone fought less than three times in one year was in 2012. He fought twice that year. In 2011, he fought five times. (Yes, that’s a record, too, tied with seven others.)

“It’s the mindset, I think. It’s gotta be,” Cerrone said. “Take the short-notice fights, fight whenever and give everyone hell. That’s kind of what I was doing.”

Not so much right now. Cerrone has changed his focus a bit. Sure, he still wants to fight as often as possible, but he set his sights not just on paychecks and adrenaline rushes. The motivation now is shinier. He wants the one thing that’s eluded him in his career: a UFC championship.

After Cerrone took apart Alexander Hernandez at UFC Brooklyn in January, he made clear what he wanted next: a top-five opponent, followed by a shot at the title. Cerrone, ranked eighth in the UFC lightweight division, got the first half of his request as Iaquinta is ranked fourth. The UFC had been trying to put together a Cerrone-Conor McGregor fight, but negotiations eventually stalled. It will be nearly four months since Cerrone last fought, certainly not the longest break Cerrone has had in his career. It only seems that way.

“It’s been a little tough, that’s for damn sure,” Cerrone said about the time off.

Iaquinta is happy to fight Cerrone, as he, too, wants a shot at the title held by Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is believed to be fighting interim champion Dustin Poirier this September (no official announcement has been made yet).

“This is a good fight for me,” Iaquinta said. “He’s like the most popular guy. He’s more popular than a lot of the champions are probably. He’s right up there. He’s been around forever.”

Cerrone began his MMA career in 2006. Iaquinta wasn’t even out of high school for a full year then. Cerrone was 0-3 in WEC title fights and is 0-1 in UFC fights.

“It’s time,” Cerrone said. “It’s time to get it done."

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