Death, taxes, and Khabib Nurmagomedov's smack talk game -- in a world of uncertainty, there are few things Donald Cerrone can rely on more than those three. Cerrone meets Nurmagomedov on May 23 in a No. 1 contender bout at UFC 187, and the Dagestani sambo master has seemingly made it his mission to prod Cerrone with an endless stream of trash talk and social media jabs in the lead-up to the fight.
"It's funny to me," Cerrone said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I appreciate that he's trying to build this fight up. I really do. But he's not really saying anything, like, under the belt, trying to dig at me, piss me off. I'm not mad. It's just like, enough, man. Everyday he's coming at me. But it's good. Mentally, I'm fine. I'm not worried at all. I get people telling me that I'm scared of Khabib. That's humorous to me as well. I've never been scared of an opponent in my life and I've tried to sign a contract to fight Khabib three times now, so if I was scared, I don't know why I would try to sign a contract three times when no one else would."
Earlier this month, Cerrone admitted during a fan Q&A in Dallas that Nurmagomedov's chatter was starting to get under his skin -- an admission which only enticed his foe to chirp even more.
Last week on The MMA Hour, Nurmagomedov vowed to break his own takedown record en route to smashing Cerrone. Though his most curious rant came when he took aim at Cerrone's popular moniker, accusing the American of being a "fake cowboy."
"I don't think so he's really cowboy," Nurmagomedov said. "I think he's fake. He all the time drink, drunk. I don't think so he's really cowboy. I'm really cowboy. I'm mountain guy. I'm training camp all my life, I'm wrestling with the bears. I'm really cowboy. He's drunk guy. I am Dagestan cowboy, 100-percent."
The line ultimately went viral, and though Cerrone maintains that he doesn't read interviews, he became aware of Nurmagomedov's words after being bombarded by fans on social media.
"I knew he called me a fake cowboy and he's this, whatever, Russian cowboy or whatever he said he was. That's fine," Cerrone responded on Monday. "It makes no difference to me. You're trying to get a giant reaction out of me, but I don't care. If he thinks he's the real Russian cowboy, then good, I'm glad. I hope he trains really hard, chops wood, plays with bears, and shows up and fights. That's all I can say. If it means pumping this fight up and getting the fans excited and an extra $50,000 for me, hell yeah. What do I need to do to do that? Let's do that.
"This is the second time this week that I've been called (a fake cowboy)," Cerrone added. "Kenny Florian was telling me that there's another real Brazilian cowboy out there, so apparently I'm not a cowboy. Maybe I'll just retire my name and quit doing cowboy s**t, I guess. I'm not sure what a real cowboy is, but apparently I'm not one."
Perhaps surprisingly, Cerrone appeared more disinterested by Nurmagomedov's attempts to rile him up than anything else. He admitted that when he was younger, he would've been more likely to take his opponent's bait, however he learned from those mistakes after failing victim to similar mind games in his 2011 loss to Nate Diaz, and to a lesser extent, his 2013 loss to Anthony Pettis.
"I cannot fight mad or emotional because I'm just unclear. I just have one thing in mind. I'm okay though. It's good," Cerrone said.
"This isn't personal at all. Not even a drop personal. [Nurmagomedov] is trying, but it's not."
While the stakes for Cerrone's duel against Nurmagomedov haven't been made official by the UFC, the winner of the fight is expected to get the first shot at newly crowned lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos.
The Brazilian dominated former champ Pettis in a stunning five-round rout at UFC 185, and even though Cerrone was one of dos Anjos' many victims on his run to the title, Cerrone admitted that he was surprised by the lopsided way in which the fight played out.
"I felt like, maybe, something was wrong with Pettis," Cerrone said. "Like, he wasn't himself. Not answering any questions for him, but I just felt like that wasn't the Pettis that I fought. Something looked off to me the whole fight with him, so I'm sure he's going to go figure that out, come back even stronger.
"Obviously [dos Anjos] trains really, really hard, man, and puts in the hours, puts in the time, and he showed up," Cerrone added. "So I'm not taking anything away from dos Anjos at all. Dude showed up and did exactly what he had to do, and he's the new champ, man. Undisputed. That's what it is."