True to his "Cowboy" persona and reckless style both in and outside of the cage, Donald Cerrone prefers a life lived reactively without the weight of pressure or planning to keep him down.
Asked whether his parenting style is anything like the haphazard way in which he accepts fights, the 37-year-old warrior could only agree.
"Absolutely, for sure," Cerrone told CBS Sports on Wednesday. "Do you boy, do whatever."
Cerrone (36-14, 1 NC), a father to nearly two-year-old Dacsun (a.k.a. "Danger") and his younger brother Riot, who Cerrone's fiancee Lindsay will deliver later this year, decided a return to the chaos he prefers at UFC 249 in a rematch against Anthony Pettis (22-10) was the best way to break out of his current funk.
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Despite holding UFC records for most wins and appearances in the Octagon, Cerrone is staring the twilight of his career dead in the face following three straight defeats, all by knockout. The most recent one, in January against a returning Conor McGregor, was the most demoralizing of all as "Cowboy" lasted just 40 seconds and was lambasted by everyone, including ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, who accused him of not showing up.
"If the shoe fits, wear it," Cerrone said.
Although Smith was initially criticized for his comments by hard-core MMA fans for what was labeled a casual take, the pundit has been taking a well-publicized victory lap of late given Cerrone's reveal that he just wasn't himself entering UFC 246 due to the pressure of main-eventing his first pay-per-view card.
"I didn't hear [Smith's criticism]," Cerrone said. "You guys got the wrong guy if you think I give a shit over anything that is said. I don't read it, watch it, look at it. I have no clue what Stephen A. Smith said, nor do I care. No idea.
"That was the biggest fight, biggest chance and biggest opportunity I had. I f---ing didn't show up and blew it. I don't know how to answer that correctly, it just f---ing sucks. [McGregor] did everything he had to do and I, on the other hand, did nothing."
So what's the best way to get the taste of a lamentable defeat out of one's mouth after a beloved 14-year career that has spanned 51 pro fights? Cerrone picked up the phone and simply said yes -- short training camp be damned, the way he prefers it to be.
"I was building the bar at the ranch and UFC called me and said, 'How do you feel about fighting on May 9?' I said, 'Sounds good. See you there,'" Cerrone said.
With just over two weeks to prepare, Cerrone is back to fight his fight without the media pressure about his history of underperforming at the highest level and without huge chunks of time to psyche himself out. Like usual, he jumped into the RV and drove from his self-proclaimed "BMF" (baddest motherf---er) ranch in New Mexico to arrive in Jacksonville, Florida, for the first of an ambitious three fight cards in eight nights for UFC at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
"There is no time to think about it. I'm actually just going to park the bus down here after Saturday and just rally to get on [the fight card for] Wednesday and Saturday again. So I'm here for all three," Cerrone said. "That's what it is, less time to think about it and just go out there and have fun."
For the record, UFC president Dana White has publicly shot down Cerrone's request to fight multiple times in the same week and cited the overall uncertainty surrounding the promotion becoming the first sports league in the United States to return following a two-month break during the coronavirus pandemic as reason not to take any additional chances.
Luckily for Cerrone, he found the perfect dance partner in the equally willing Pettis, the 33-year-old former lightweight champion who has the demons of a two-fight losing streak of his own to exercise. Pettis was submitted by Carlos Diego Ferreira on the undercard of McGregor-Cerrone and jumped at the chance to make things new when he received the call, even though he had no intentions of fighting this quickly.
"You know Cowboy don't say no and I don't say no, so there you go," Pettis told CBS Sports last week. "I'm a fighter's fighter and will fight anyone anytime. I believe in my skill set and believe I'm one of the best in the world, no matter what. It's all about just putting it together. Last fight, I had an amazing training camp and put so much hard work into that fight and just shit the bed in that performance. When they called me, I was like, 'Hell yeah.'"
Pettis was initially stuck in Las Vegas for a month when the pandemic hit, but he got the call for the fight just after returning to his home in Milwaukee. What he found was how much he preferred the daily individual training he got with his coaches because of the quarantine.
"The amount of information I took in and how clean I look in just three weeks is ridiculous," Pettis said. "This time it was focused on Anthony Pettis and what I need to do to win the fight. I got so much more out of that two hours than I got out of a week of doing pro practice. It's a blessing and this is how I am going to be doing my training camps from now on.
"It's weird because a couple of my last fights, I don't think I had a strategy. This time, in the training I'm starting to see the stuff that my coaches are telling me. It has been a while since I have seen that."
Both Pettis and Cerrone embrace the platform they have been given as the preliminary main event on Saturday, airing to a mass audience on ESPN. Pettis believes the lack of fans in the building will actually allow him to focus more on winning than trying to live up to his "Showtime" persona, which has often left him with a burden of feeling like he has to do something crazy to entertain.
That doesn't mean Pettis won't take the opportunity to uncork his patented "Showtime kick" by leaping off the cage wall if the opening is there.
"It would be even bigger this time because the world is watching," Pettis said. "If I land that Showtime kick again, it's going to be ridiculous no matter where it happens. I can do it outside of a bar on a Saturday night and it would be trending."
The fact that the two fighters have history -- Pettis won by first-round knockout in their 2013 meeting with a kick to the body -- hasn't stirred up any of the bad blood between them that was present before their first fight. Back then, Cerrone declared publicly that Pettis had avoided him during their WEC careers and told Pettis when they touched gloves to fight that he was going to embarrass him.
What happened next turned out to be a humbling experience.
"I just remember he kicked my whole liver out of my body," Cerrone said. "That was no fun. I remember he kicked me hard as shit and I tried to hide it. He hit me again and I was like, 'Oh God, I can not even fight that.' I just crumbled. It sucked."
"I think [the beef] died when I beat him," Pettis said.
Not only did the two fighters agree to fight at welterweight for the rematch to help with the weight cut, Cerrone said they exchanged texts the entire time from the point of contract negotiation through training camp.
"Anthony is my buddy," Cerrone said. "I even tried to get him to agree to fight at 185 pounds with three-minute rounds. He was like, 'Hell yeah!'"
So who needs the victory more? The quick answer is both of them, although Pettis isn't letting himself be fooled into thinking Cerrone is washed up.
"It wasn't a fight [against McGregor], he just got caught," Pettis said. "He felt he didn't want to be there and that's what it looked like. When Cowboy wants to fight, he can fight and it just looked like he didn't show up that night. But fans know how I play and Cowboy is not a guy that is going to try to lay on top of me and hold me down for three rounds. He's coming to scrap and he has something to prove."
In case you're wondering, Cerrone doesn't want to talk about retirement -- not now, not ever. He maintains there will come a day UFC will have to remove him from his profession against his own will and before he could even be asked whether that day might come with a fourth straight defeat on Saturday, Cerrone was quick to interject.
"Stop," Cerrone said. "if you're asking me if I'm tired of losing, the answer is f--- yes!"
Make no mistake, Cerrone is coming to win. He's just happy to return to a head space in which he doesn't have to believe there's any pressure to do so.
Last-minute call. Gun for hire. Have RV, will travel. It's time for Cowboy to do what he does best and the fact UFC will be the only game in town this weekend for professional sports isn't lost on Cerrone.
"Even if you're not a UFC fan and just a golf fan you will be saying, 'F---ing golf isn't even on, I might as well tune in to watch this UFC bulls---.' There we go," Cerrone said. "I bet there is going to be a lot of eyes. I'm going to go in there and fight my ass off. I'm going to do what I love to do."