Before his main event bout against Jim Miller at UFC Fight Night 45, Donald Cerrone summed up his hopes for a legacy by saying that he wanted to make sure people were willing to pull off the highway and find a bar when they heard his fight was coming on TV.
As career ambitions go, it’s probably the most perfectly “Cowboy”-esque one I’ve ever heard. It’d also probably be a terrible goal for almost anyone but him, and yet somehow he makes it work, and makes it look brutally effortless in the process.
Part of it is fighting style. Remember those velociraptors in “Jurassic Park”? The ones that were smart and fast and constantly probing for weaknesses? Cerrone’s a little like them, but with better takedown defense. He batters you all over your body, watching to see what makes you wince. Let him see that you’re hurt, and you might as well draw a circle around the affected area, hand him a knife, then lie down in the center of the cage and tell him, ‘Whenever you’re ready.’
Against Miller, his body work was so precise and relentless that it was even able to negate a questionable pause in the action by referee Dan Miragliotta, who saw Miller double-over in pain after a body kick and apparently assumed that there must have been something illegal about it. There wasn’t, of course. It might have been nasty, but it was also perfectly within the rules. But instead of complaining about it, Cerrone shrugged and walked to a neutral corner. Here he appeared to wave to some friends in the crowd. Why not? They came all this way.
By the time the fight was restarted, the homing beacon in Cerrone’s foot had clearly been activated. Over and over again it found itself rocketing toward Miller’s midsection. Miller tried to stand up straight and give off the air of a man in perfect health, but you try keeping a poker face together when your internal organs are all running to take cover behind your spine.
And Cerrone? He’s no fool. He knows what to do once an opponent is sufficiently preoccupied with the current and future state of his gut region. He faked low and went high, finally exploiting Miller’s gradually lowering shields and using it as an opportunity to lace a shin across his skull. Miller took it without even the hint of a block.
For half a second it seemed like he might survive it, too. This is Jim Miller we’re talking about, after all. There are some things he simply doesn’t do, like put some work in on his base tan before a fight, or use entrance music that was recorded in the last 25 years. Going down to strikes is right up there on that list of Miller no-nos, which might be why it seemed to take a moment for his brain to convince his body that it needed to sit and rest a spell. Unfortunately for him, Cerrone the Merciless followed him to his seat for one last good punch, just so we’d all know the matter was good and settled.
Here’s where a lot of fighters would’ve jumped on the mic and demanded a title shot. The win was his fourth in a row, so it wouldn’t have been so absurd. Earlier in the night we’d seen John Lineker, whose win streak is currently holding steady at one, do the same.
But instead, Cerrone used his post-fight interview time to demand … a fight. Against, you know, whoever. A Diaz brother, maybe? That Nurmagomedov guy? Sure, fine.
“I will literally fight anybody,” Cerrone said at the post-fight press conference. “UFC tells me the date and time to be there, and I’ll gladly be there.”
Coming from anyone else, it’d sound like a lie and a cliche. At the very least, it’d sound like a bad idea, since history has shown that it’s the titleholders who get paid, and fighting as often as physically possible, against absolutely anyone the UFC can dream up, isn’t always a great way to become one of those. Even the best wear down, get beat up, turn in diminished performances.
But then, if you were giving all that much thought to how tomorrow was going to feel, you probably wouldn’t have become Donald Cerrone in the first place. And if he’s not getting in there and trading head trauma with somebody – anybody – what are you going to watch on TV when you pull off the road and into that bar?
For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 45, check out the UFC Events section of the site.