Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone was definitely motivated to put a hurting on Diego Sanchez after the UFC said his former teammate had specifically requested to face him in what was expected to be the final fight of his career.
Unfortunately, Sanchez was pulled from the fight after his head coach Joshua Fabia raised concerns with the UFC about the former Ultimate Fighter winner’s long-term health. The disagreement eventually ended with Sanchez being released from the promotion with UFC President Dana White taking direct aim at Fabia as the antagonist that led to the decision.
With Sanchez out, Cerrone was given an option to stay on the card against a different opponent or wait until a later date to compete again. Never known for turning down an opportunity to fight, he ended up accepting a short notice showdown with Alex Morono in the new co-main event for UFC Vegas 26.
“I’ve never seen someone get thrown off cause they’re crazy,” Cerrone said about Sanchez during the UFC Vegas 26 media day. “It’s a first for me. But short notice is short notice. Usually I’m the guy filling in, but not the other way around.
“You’ve seen people get chopped, so apparently he pissed the wrong people off, and it just so happened right before the fight. I don’t really have anything to say. I was looking forward to the fight. I’m going back to 55, so taking this fight, I was like man, now I’m going to take a short notice fight against a 70-pounder. I was only doing it for the UFC, they asked me, Diego begged for the fight, wanted it and I said cool, I wanted to go to 155. So here we are at 170 again and as soon as this fight’s over, I’ll be hollering for 55. Excited to go get paid on Saturday.”
Ever since Sanchez was released from the UFC, there has been a lot of concern about his relationship with Fabia and the influence the leader of “The School of Self-Awareness” has had on the former title contender. Former teammate Rashad Evans responded to an Instagram post from Sanchez calling Fabia “a parasite” while advising “you must get this guy out of your life.”
While Cerrone was certainly driven after hearing that Sanchez specifically asked to face him prior to the fight being cancelled, he isn’t holding any ill will toward him after everything that’s happened recently.
“Diego, it’s hard to be mad at him now, because I don’t know if it’s him guiding the horse,” Cerrone said. “I can’t really be mad at the kid, or the old man I should say. Really it’s his cult leader and lover that’s took over his life, and I feel bad for you, Diego.”
According to Cerrone, he’s never personally had any interactions with Fabia, but he was well aware of an incident that apparently happened at a bar in New Mexico involving Sanchez’s coach and trainer.
“I never, ever have,” Cerrone said about his personal dealings with Fabia. “I do know the guy that whipped his ass at the bar, I used to train with the guy, and that kid was talking about his death punch and how he was going to kill the dude, and my buddy dog walked his motherf*cking ass all over the bar. So the death punch did not work. It was unsuccessful.
“This guy now longer fights, no longer trains, he just said, ‘I’ll beat yo ass’ and he did. The MMA community in New Mexico had a chuckle over it.”
In a prepared statement, Fabia wrote to MMA Fighting: “‘Cowboy’ is a lying bigot and has shown who he really is. Sad he is brainwashed by UFC and can’t see it. He is probably gonna be in the hospital Saturday and think it’s cool cause he got his adrenaline fix. Sad nobody cares enough about him to let him go in after he says in media he needs his head to heal.
“So the UFC promotes homophobia now? UFC supports hate in its community and that’s a fact.”
As far as fight this weekend, Cerrone momentarily contemplated if he should accept a short notice opponent like Morono, especially considering he’d be competing at 170 pounds after committing himself to the lightweight division.
In the end after putting a rigorous training camp together to prepare for this date, Cerrone didn’t see any reason not to fight and make another paycheck.
“I still have the malicious intent of hurting a motherf*cker,” Cerrone said. “So I’ve got the Diego fire still. So I plan on every punch and every kick to be lethal, and I don’t want this kid to make it out of the first round.
“When he watches this, know I’m coming motherf*cker. When you come hard and come fast in the beginning, I’ll be ready.”
Of course, the fight comes at a pivotal point in Cerrone’s own career after he’s gone 0-4 with one no-contest in his past five appearances. Following his previous fight, which initially ended in a majority draw, White said that it might be time to finally have that uncomfortable conversation with Cerrone about his future.
While Cerrone said that specific talk never actually happened, hearing White say that was a tough pill to swallow. But he promised he’s ready to prove himself on Saturday night.
“Hell yeah it hurts,” Cerrone said about White’s comments. “What do you mean? Of course, but we took a little slower approach this year. I am getting old. I am. I need to slow my fighting down a little bit. Let my head heal but sh*t we’re ready.
“Doing that grappling tournament with [Rafael dos Anjos] was like the best thing I ever did. It really got me excited to do jiu-jitsu again. It really got me excited in training and fired up. I shouldn’t say fired up cause the fire never left. I hate that term, ‘Oh I had to reignite the fire,’ but I got excited about it again. I’m excited to go out there and participate.”