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Donald Cerrone learned to embrace being a role model thanks to his grandma

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Donald Cerrone
Donald Cerrone
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

When Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone decided he wanted to be a fighter, it was because he absolutely loved fighting.

In those early days, he never imagined the extra responsibilities that would come along with his rapid rise up the ranks where he not only became an elite mixed martial artist but he’s also one of the most popular athletes in the sport.

“The role model and trying to set a good example, it didn’t really start hitting home until you start seeing people dressing up as you for Halloween,” Cerrone said on his “More Than a Cowboy” documentary. “I’d hear people train at a gym with a guy like ‘there’s a kid there saying he’s doing the “Cowboy” combo, he follows you around, he wants to meet you, wants talk to you’ and I’m like really? Someone wants to hang out with me?

“That’s never really made much sense. Even today, [my coach] Jafari [Vanier] [said] it happens all the time, I’m like really someone wants to come down here and hang out? He’s like ‘dude, are you kidding me?’. I think I’m just a regular person. That’s how I feel.”

It wasn’t until Cerrone had a candid conversation with his grandmother Jerry and she set him straight about carrying himself in a certain way because people were going to look up to him as an example now.

“The role model side of it was my grandma,” Cerrone explained. “She would say knock that sh*t off, you have kids and dads now that are wanting to follow in your footsteps and be like you, so be a good person. Like do it right.

“You have the world in your hand and people following you so why would you want to be an assh*le? Why do you want to be that guy? I’m like you’re right grandma, sorry.”

Over time Cerrone took the wise words from his grandma to heart because he began to see how his outward appearance to the rest of the world would begin to reflect back on him.

“Like I was saying when we were talking about this documentary, I get to portray the story and tell you guys anything I want. So if I want you to believe that I’m a d*ckhead, I could totally do that but why not steer this ship the way I want it, where I want the world to see me,” Cerrone said. “That’s kind of how she was telling me.”

Cerrone, who faces Conor McGregor in the UFC 246 main event on Jan. 18, has carried that same attitude into the Octagon where he has learned arguably the toughest lesson of all — being gracious in victory or defeat.

That has now became the best possible advice that he’s passed along to the next generation of fighters seeking to emulate him.

“When you win, hold yourself in the public eye, like at the end of the day what the UFC has done for me is made me like a role model to touch people. So if I wanted to you guys to think I’m just a f*cking rude, crude piece of sh*t, I can portray that or no man, I’m here to like teach these kids,” Cerrone explained. “Show the youth, show the next generation out there yeah performing well is great and let’s hold ourselves in some kind of manner.

“Like don’t jump on the cage and throw sh*t and rub it in the other guy’s face. Go over and make sure he’s all right. Go shake the dude’s mom’s hand, who is now crying because her son just lost. This isn’t like football where a whole team you can fall back on. It’s a one person sport. You go in there and someone usually gets knocked the f*ck out unfortunately.”