Less than 48 hours after Donald Cerrone effortlessly handed Myles Jury the first loss of his career at UFC 182, the man they call "Cowboy" parked himself inside the UFC's Las Vegas offices this past Monday, sticking true to his word and refusing to leave town until he had his next fight booked. And as the old saying goes, a closed mouth doesn't get feed.
Cerrone's perseverance paid off with perhaps the craziest gamble of his entire UFC tenure, as he's now scheduled to fight former lightweight champion Benson Henderson in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 59 on Jan. 18, replacing the sick Eddie Alvarez on less than two weeks' notice. The move means that Cerrone will literally fight on back-to-back UFC cards to kick off his 2015 campaign. And really, he wouldn't have it any other way.
"Prepare? S**t, I don't even have enough time to prepare a cake," Cerrone said on a Tuesday conference call, chuckling to himself. "What are you talking about, prepare? I'm just going in there fighting. I've got enough time to cut weight and get to Boston. So there will be no gameplan. Just fight. That's all there is to do. Short, sweet, and get it over with."
It doesn't seem like an exaggeration to say the risk Cerrone is taking here is extraordinary, and one that few fighters would dare to try. Cerrone is in full-blown title contention due to his current six-fight streak, and Henderson's three consecutive title defenses from 2012-2013 still tie B.J. Penn for the highest mark in the division's history. If that wasn't daunting enough, Henderson also holds two past victories over Cerrone dating back to the pair's time in WEC.
The circumstances are so skewed that, according to Cerrone, UFC officials were reluctant to even offer him the fight.
"I went and got steak and eggs for breakfast from the executive chefs, talked to Lorenzo (Fertitta) a little bit, and really, it was going to be ‘we'll let you know in a couple days' kind of answer," Cerrone said. "So no, I had no idea Alvarez was injured or Henderson was even an option. I was about midway home driving the RV when Dana (White) called me like, ‘hey man, I don't really want you to take this fight... but I've got an opportunity for you.
"Dana was like, ‘I think you should take some time off... but I'm not telling you to take time off.' He was talking to [me] as a friend, so I'm like, alright, well, I'll take the fight."
Cerrone says the decision was an obvious one for him to make following an unusually measured performance against Jury, which, regardless of its dominance, left a bad taste in his mouth.
Even when it came down to logistics, simple things like cutting weight twice in three weeks, Cerrone said he barely considered (or cared) about any potential ramifications.
"I don't have an answer for you on that one," Cerrone replied, chuckling again. "[That's] probably damaging, for sure. But so is cocaine and alcohol, so I think this is a little less.
"I guess I could sit back like every other fighter and sit and wait. But I'm not every other fighter," Cerrone added. "I'm my own guy, and I don't give a s**t. Bring these fights on, you know? Like I said, if I'm going to be the champ, I've got to beat everyone anyways, so what is sitting and waiting and holding my position do?
"It's not like I just say that, and when it comes to me, I tell my friends, 'oh man, I've got to take this fight because everyone expects me to.' No. When they offered it to me, it was like, yeah, absolutely, let's go. There's no name that comes across the table that I'm like, ‘oh damn, I'm can't take that.' No, let's go. Let's fight. It's what we do. It's what I'm paid to do. It's my job."
As per usual, Cerrone said he's planning to drive his custom RV to Boston -- a west-to-east trip that he expects to take around 32 hours -- and win or lose, he's going to ask for another helping of his Octagon sundae as soon as possible, because darlin', there ain't no rest for the wicked. Six fights in 12 months was the goal, and somehow Cerrone accomplished it.
Just don't mistake any flippancy for disrespect, because Cerrone knows better than anyone the beast he signed up to fight in Henderson.
"Dude held the title. He's one of the best out there, man. That's for goddamn sure," Cerrone said. "It's not like I'm taking a filler fight against some bottom-25 guy. This is one of the top guys, and I know that full-well going into it. I'm super excited. If you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best. The only problem is if I goddamn get that belt, who's going to be left to fight? That's what I want to know."