LOS ANGELES -- The UFC these days is a $4B entity broadcast on network television, with all the headaches and controversies that go with sport as a big business.
This is an old-school fight, with old-school excitement, the sort of throwdown fans used to get excited about back when there was little money in the sport and people watched because of their passion for fighting.
And Cerrone knows it.
“I’m f*cking pumped,” Cerrone said during a UFC 213 press event on Wednesday. “It’s going to be exciting, you know? I don’t even know why they need me to keep selling this fight, it’s already, if you’re not a f*cking MMA fan and watching this fight, then f*ck you.”
This bout was briefly scheduled for UFC 205 in New York last November before Lawler, the former UFC welterweight champion, had to withdraw.
Cerrone went on to knock out Matt Brown at UFC 206, then was finished by Jorge Masvidal in January. Coming off the loss, Cerrone was simply itching to get back into action, so getting that opportunity to fight Lawler which he thought has forever passed was a bonus.
“This is a fight that I think everyone’s going to want to see,” Cerrone said. “It’s like a fighter’s fight, you know? Two old-school boys getting down, I gotta say, my mentality was it doesn’t matter who they give me. I just got my ass whipped, coming off a hard fight, and now I’ve got another one. It’s good, man. It’s awesome. I’m looking forward to it.”
With 45 career finishes between the two of them, Cerrone knows the duo has a reputation to live up to, but he’s not sweating it.
“I don’t think you have to gas this up, Cerrone said. “We’re already full tanks, man. You know, Robbie’s old school. He’s been around forever, so have I. Someone’s going to lose, but I don’t think Robbie looks like at it like and neither do I. ...
“I’m going to fight, fight one of the best brawlers in the standup, f*cking throw down and put on a show,” Cerrone added later. “This fight’s for me. This is what I love, there’s no place I’d rather be than in that motherf**ker. And then throwing down with one of the greatest? C’mon. I’m loving it, every minute of it.”
Your ordinary fighter might feel intense pressure coming into the Lawler fight. Cerrone’s had 70 pro fights between MMA and kickboxing, is 34, coming off a loss, and already had a title shot. A win over Lawler could put him right back into the mix.
But Cerrone says that if it ever was his motivation, it isn’t now.
“Some people are like born, and their sole purpose is they love the belt, that’s their mission in life,” he said. “Me? I enjoy having fun and doing what I love. Fighting is just something I do, man, it’s not who I am. It doesn’t complete me. So the end of the day if I get the belt, f*cking great. If I don’t, I had such a good run and I love it. There’s literally no place I’d rather be July 8 then in the fucking ring throwing down. I love it. It’s my passion. So for me, it’s the highest pinnacle of my life, It’s my passion, doing what I love every f*cking day. People are like, Cowboy, you should probably quit drinking, you should probably quit partying. I’m like no, f*ck you all, I’m doing it my way. This is what I want to do.”