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Donald Cerrone welcomes gatekeeper label, but can Darren Till 'get past the gate?'


GDANSK, Poland – Donald Cerrone relishes the narrative his UFC Fight Night 118 headliner with Darren Till could be a changing of the guard in the UFC welterweight division.

Cerrone (32-9 MMA, 19-6 UFC), who meets Till (15-0-1 MMA, 3-0-1 UFC) in the main event of Saturday’s UFC Fight Pass-streamed card at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland, is aware of all the storylines. From the perception that an up-and-comer will make a name at his expense to the fact “Cowboy” could be falling off by fighting someone outside the rankings after back-to-back losses, Cerrone has heard all the chatter.

He simply doesn’t care.

Anyone who’s followed Cerrone’s career knows there’s almost nothing he won’t take it stride. So, the “old school vs. new school” outlook on the matchmaking certainly isn’t going to come as a bother for arguably the most laid back fighter in the sport. Cerrone said Till deserves all the credit if he successfully uses his name as a building block, but he just doesn’t see it happening.

“Can you pass that test? It’s a good training exercise for Darren,” Cerrone today told MMAjunkie. “Welcome to the big leagues. Some people say, ”Cowboy’ is the gatekeeper.’ (Expletive) it: Can he get past the gate? We’ll see.

“It’s not like those things hurt my feelings. I know who I am, and it’s fine. I’ve been in this game a long time. This is my 34th Zuffa walk. I’ve been in the top 10 almost my entire career. That’s a pretty cool thing I can say. I’m here, I’m (expletive) going out and having fun, and I can’t (expletive) wait.”

There’s no doubt Cerrone, No. 10 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA welterweight rankings, has the most to lose in the fight. He may be on the first losing skid of his career, but his defeats came to former UFC champ and No. 3-ranked Robbie Lawler and No. 8 Jorge Masvidal.

Although Till holds a solid unbeaten record over 16 fights, Cerrone is a massive step up in competition. Till’s self-confidence in the lead-up to UFC Fight Night 118 is evident on the surface, but Cerrone said it’s going to be something entirely different when he steps in the octagon on fight night.

“He’s a new up-and-comer,” Cerrone said. “Everyone’s like, ‘You’re overlooking him.’ At what point do I look past somebody? You mean the six weeks I’m training my ass for this fight? People are so strange. I train hard. I train the same always. I stay ready. Fighting is what I love to do. It doesn’t always go my way. Right now I’m two in the wrong. The Robbie fight, to me, that could have gone either way. People weren’t like, ‘Oh, you went out there and let us down.’ I fought the best in the world and (expletive) loved it.

“I’m glad Darren took the fight. He’s coming hard, I’m sure. This is the biggest moment of his life. Lights, camera, action, man. This is a big deal. Five rounds, a big fight. You went from the undercard to the big card. I’ve been there. This is just another day for me. But for him, this is a big test. Are you going to be able to show up? Is five rounds too much for you? Is it too much up (in the head)? Physically I’m sure you’re fine, but (mentally) it’s a big deal.”

Cerrone, 34, and Till, 24, appear to be somewhat cut from the same cloth in that they’re true fighters to the core. They’re passionate about fighting as frequently as possible regardless of who’s on the other side, and Cerrone said he respects that approach.

When the fight was first booked, Cerrone said admitted knew absolutely nothing about Till. That hasn’t necessarily changed over the course of a six-week training camp; Cerrone famously dislikes watching film of his opponents. He said he’s learned everything he needs from his coaching staff at Jackson Wink MMA, though, and that allows him to be comfortable in his preparation going into UFC Fight Night 118.

“It wasn’t any disrespect from me,” Cerrone said. “I wasn’t trying to like prod at the kid. I just didn’t know who he was. Honestly, I watch zero fights. It has nothing to do with me not training. My coaches, it’s their job. You guys study and let me train. I just don’t enjoy it. I don’t sit there. There’s some people that love that. They sit at home. I would rather go looking at castles and walking around. Last night I was watching YouTube videos on how people build and design castles. I guess I could have been watching Darren Till, but I wasn’t.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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