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Donald Cerrone reveals he was ready to retire before fighting Conor McGregor: ‘I just was doing it for all the wrong reasons’

Donald Cerrone on his retirement at UFC 276

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is riding off into the sunset, and he couldn’t be happier about it.

On Saturday night in Las Vegas, Cerrone competed for the final time in his illustrious MMA career, losing by second-round submission to Jim Miller on the prelims of UFC 276. After the bout, Cerrone took off his gloves and trademark cowboy hat and left them in the ring, signaling his retirement from the sport. In his post-fight interview, he said, “I don’t love it anymore,” and that he was going on to pursue his burgeoning acting career.

Speaking at his post-fight press scrum, Cerrone went into more detail about his retirement, telling reporters that he knew heading into UFC 276 that this was his final rodeo.

“This sport is crazy. It’s the highest highs and the lowest lows, and I feel, probably the best I’ve felt in my career at my lowest right now if that makes any sense,” Cerrone said. “It was important for me to go out with Joe [Rogan] and Bruce [Buffer] in the cage. Just an iconic thing, here in Vegas. I knew back in January when we started training for the first round, this was going to be my last round, no matter what I told you guys. I remember telling the media team you guys are not to ask me about retiring, and I said, ‘I’ll do 50,’ but win or lose tonight, this was it, I was riding off.

“I don’t love it anymore like I used to. Last night I couldn’t sleep. I was up until six in the morning laying there, and I’m not going to miss those feelings, I’ll tell you that. But it was good to go in there. I surprised the hell out of my team. They had no idea it was coming. My wife didn’t know. No one knew. It was a good secret I had. Talk about emotional, yeah, but I feel good. It’s like the biggest sigh of relief I’ve ever had in my life. ‘Ooh. Aah. We’re done.’ Now it’s off to the next chapter. And I’ll be back. I’ll come hang out, watch fights, talk to the young generation, tell them all the things they should’ve, could’ve, would’ve done. And maybe I’ll get an itch in two years, who knows? But anytime soon, hell to the no.”

Cerrone had apparently been contemplating retirement for some time. Cowboy said he first knew his was ready to hang up his gloves in 2020, when he fought Conor McGregor at UFC 246, but he tried, unsuccessfully to rekindle his passion for the sport several times since then.

“Before I fought McGregor, I knew,” Cerrone said. “Then after the McGregor fight, I took another fight and I was just going through the motions. I didn’t enjoy it, didn’t love it. I knew the time was soon I just had to pick the right time. So I took a lot of time off and then called my agent and said let’s get a fight, and I just knew this was going to be the last one...

“My wife played soccer in college, and a lot of the things that kept me going in the last fights of my life was, she was like, ‘I wish I could go back and just play one more game,’” Cerrone said. “‘You have the chance to do one more fight. Go experience it and love it.’ And I was trying to love it, I was trying to find it, and I was trying to experience it. I just was doing it for all the wrong reasons. I was doing it for everybody else and on myself. But retiring tonight, that was for me, and I f****** feel good about it. I’m gonna go home tonight and crack me a nice cold Budweiser and f****** chug it all the way down and be like, ‘Ahh. Good career, Cowboy.’”

Good career, indeed. Cerrone walks away from MMA with a Hall of Fame-worthy career. Cowboy retires tied for second all-time for multiple UFC record including fights at 38 (tied with Andrei Arlovski), wins at 23 (also tied with Arlovski), and finishes at 16 (tied with Miller). He also holds the records for most knockdowns in UFC history at 20, and is tied with Charles Oliveira for most post-fight bonuses at 18. Given his prolific career, one might think it would be hard for Cerrone to pinpoint his most memorable moment, but he said that, even with the loss, his retirement is easily his favorite.

“This is it right here tonight,” Cerrone said. “Everyone got really emotional. Like I said, I had both my boys in there, Bruce and Joe sent me off, and I’ll hang my hat on that all day long. One hell of a career. And why not? The guy tied with the most wins takes the wins and keep going. Hell yeah! Good job, Jim. F****** run with it, baby. I’m going to step down and it’s all good. So if I had a moment that I look back on, this is it. I’ve dreamt of this moment for a long time, of finally being OK in my heart saying it’s time to walk away, and this was it.”

And as for what’s next, aside from his budding movie career, Cerrone sent himself off in trademark Cowboy fashion.

“I’m going to drink beer up there on the front row and have a belly so big I can’t even see my d***, that’s what I’m looking for,” Cerrone said. “So take a look at this body because it’s going to be the last time it’s ever looking this way, and after that I’m turning the corner and never looking back.”

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