On the same night of UFC's 25th anniversary celebration in the same city the promotion began, longtime fan favorite Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone turned in a historic performance in from of his home fans.
Cerrone (34-11, 1 NC) put the negative taste of four defeats over his previous five bouts behind him with an emotional first-round submission win over Mike Perry in their welterweight bout which served as the co-main event of UFC Fight Night in Denver. More importantly for the 35-year-old Cerrone, he was able to separate his name in the record books.
By forcing Perry (12-4) to tap via armbar, Cerrone passed former champions Georges St-Pierre and Michael Bisping into first place in UFC history with 21 victories. He also extended his company record for career stoppages with 15.
"Most wins in UFC history baby!" Cerrone said. "I love you Denver, I love you!"
Considering his recent losses left critics wondering whether Cerrone was closing in on retirement, the victory created quite an emotional response from the veteran who celebrated inside the Octagon with his grandmother and infant son by his side.
"Having a baby changed me," Cerrone said. "it was like, 'You ain't taking food from my family, ain't no way or no how!'"
Cerrone, who survived a standing slam attempt by Perry that saw him land on the side of his head, produced the tap out at 3:46 of the opening round and instantly talked about a reinvention by cutting back down to the 155-pound mark to seek the biggest names possible. The extremely active Cerrone has spent his last 10 appearances at welterweight since a TKO loss to then-champion Rafael dos Anjos in his last lightweight appearance in December 2015.
"Let's talk about me going back to 155," Cerrone said. "That's what we need to talk about. I don't care, I just need to know when. Khabib [Nurmagomedov], I'm coming. Cowboy is back, baby."
While it's unlikely Cerrone would be next in line for a shot at Nurmagomedov's title, a showdown with former champion Conor McGregor would be a creative bit of matchmaking for UFC, especially considering the trash talk between the two in the past.
Perry, 27, dropped his third bout over his last four appearances, slowing the momentum he built following a gusty split-decision win over Paul Felder in July at UFC 226.