UFC 276 is in the books, and there’s plenty to digest from the annual “biggest card of the year.”
If you break out your promoter’s checklist, you’ll recall that the “Biggest Card of the Year” is generally the card currently being promoted (that’s right up there next to “So and So is the Greatest of All Time,” with “So and So” being whoever the current champ is). But the UFC has made a habit of more or less stacking their July spectacle to cap off International Fight Week, which comes with a fan expo (UFC X) and the annual UFC Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
This year was no exception. Two title fights, a bonafide number one contender’s bout, some former champs, some young upstarts, a little something for everyone. All done in the absence of Dana White, who chose to take a vacation during a show he’d almost certainly be front and center at otherwise.
What’s really remarkable at UFC 276, almost as much as the fights themselves, is the plenitude of talking points that emerged from it. So let’s get right to some of the biggest.
Cowboy Cerrone Rides Off Into the Sunset
The lasting image of any cowboy is atop his horse, riding off into the horizon, sun setting on the western skies. That long ride down the dusty trail.
The UFC’s own Cowboy, one Donald Cerrone, didn’t get quite that exit, but a standing ovation will have to do.
Fans who are newer to the sport pretty much know Cowboy for his trademark hat and entrance theme (Kid Rock’s “Cowboy,” obviously), but there was a time when Cerrone was an absolute killer in the lightweight, and later welterweight divisions. He was also the hardest working man in the sport, embodying the anyone, any time, anywhere mentality that, as opponent Jim Miller noted after their fight, we see less and less of today.
Cerrone was one of a kind in a sport built on personalities. He was gracious with the media even when he didn’t exactly love having to field oftentimes trite questions while cutting weight. His grandmother, and later sons Dacson Danger and Riot River became MMA royalty themselves.
But more than anything, he put on a show. He never held gold in a major promotion, but fought for a title three times in the WEC (once for an interim belt, twice for the undisputed title), and once in the UFC itself. His kicks were the thing of nightmares; if you saw it, you’re unlikely to forget Cerrone whipping Myles Jury with them like he was beating a particularly stubborn mule. He had multiple head kick finishes, and was equally dangerous on the ground. Even later in his career, up until one final skid, Cerrone produced results. His KO of Matt Brown at UFC 206 was unforgettable; finishes of Yancy Medeiros, Mike Perry, and another head kick, on Anthony Hernandez, served to remind the field that Cerrone was one gunslinger not to be slept on.
Yet what might be most remarkable about Cerrone was his honesty, despite being the toughest of tough guys in a tough guy sport. With the dust cleared following his loss to Jim Miller, Cowboy admitted that he just didn’t love fighting anymore. That he wouldn’t miss the sleepless nights. That his retirement, having finally arrived at UFC 276, was the biggest sigh of relief ever.
Cowboy will be missed — but credit to him for recognizing that his ride was over.