White said retirement was on the line when Cerrone met Niko Price in the co-headliner of Saturday’s event. Now, he plans to talk to “Cowboy” about hanging up the gloves.
“For him tonight, the win for him tonight, he was on his way out in the first 30 seconds of the first round,” White said at the post-fight press conference at UFC APEX.
“He fought back, he’s tough, he’s durable. I love ‘Cowboy,’ and I know this is going to f*cking crush him and break his heart, but it’s time to have a conversation with him.”
Never has White been so emphatic about Cerrone’s future. The UFC executive previously has given “Cowboy” a wide latitude on his career, which has allowed the veteran fighter to set plenty of records and line his pockets with extra bonus money.
Cerrone is tied at 36 with Jim Miller for the most UFC fights in promotional history, and he leads in wins with 23, in addition to a host of other records for performance. But after Saturday’s setback, he remains winless since May 2019 with four losses and a draw on his resume.
Before facing off with Price, Cerrone struck a more defiant tone about his career, saying he wanted to be the one to call it off rather than getting a release from contract from his longtime promoter. He said he’d fallen back in love with the sport after a decision loss to ex-champ Anthony Pettis earlier this year and attributed his struggles to laziness after so many years in the fight game.
After the fight, he was in a dour mood and considered the result his fifth straight loss. And yet, the “r” word was nowhere near his lips. Instead, he welcomed the idea of a rematch with Price, who immediately extended the invitation after 15 minutes in the octagon.
“I just need to figure out something that I’m doing wrong,” Cerrone said. “I don’t know where it is along the line, but I need to figure out what’s causing me to be—let’s just rewind it.”
Price would have won the fight had he not been deducted a point for eye-poking Cerrone. The bout was repeatedly marred by that foul, leaving both competitors blinking and warned by the referee.
White agreed with the majority draw, but said he would seek out Cerrone to have a heart-to-heart about the future. He didn’t outright shut down the idea of a rematch. He just wanted to make sure the veteran fighter knew where he stood.
From the sound of it, White sounds pretty sure where Cerrone is at.
“I’ve got to have this conversation and see what he says,” White said. “I know what he’s going to say – I don’t want to stop. But we’ve got to have the conversation.”
Historically, Cerrone has been very good at getting White to go along with an aggressive schedule. But in the past three years, his setbacks have become longer and more frequent, raising questions of longevity.
Cerrone wants to decide when he quits. The question now is whether White forces the issue and sets up the choice of moving on – or packing it in.