The Outlaw Career of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone

Cowboy Cerrone, UFC 276
Cowboy Cerrone, UFC 276 Ceremonial Weigh-Ins. Credit: Alex Behunin/CagesidePress

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone retired from the sport of MMA this past weekend at UFC 276 following his submission loss to Jim Miller. After his fight, Cerrone announced he was going to ride off into the sunset and become a movie star.

Cowboy’s career has entertained hardcore MMA fans for more than a decade and he should definitely be brought into the UFC Hall of Fame sometime in the future. Not that the UFC Hall of Fame has such things, but Cerrone is pretty much a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Until then, we’ll take a quick look back at a legendary career that spanned over a decade, two weights classes, and became synonymous with the any time, anywhere, anyone attitude that fans came to love.

WEC Days

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone has been fighting in the UFC since the WEC merged with the company in 2011. In WEC, Cowboy went 6-3 challenging for the lightweight title in all three of his losses with the promotion — once for an interim belt, twice for the undisputed title. He then entered the UFC defeating big names like Benson Henderson, Edson Barboza, and Eddie Alvarez early in his UFC career. Throughout his career he also earned big wins over guys like Alex Oliveira, Matt Brown, Mike Perry, Alexander Hernandez, and Al Iaquinta.

Cowboy Arrives

Cerrone has certainly lived up to the “cowboy” moniker in his time with the UFC. All throughout his career, he proved himself to be game to fight whenever and wherever. Short-notice fights, main event fights, comeback wins, highlight reel knockouts and submissions. You name it and cowboy did it in his 11 years with the company. He has 38 fights in the UFC octagon winning Fight of the Night six times and Performance of the Night (including its precursors, Knockout of the Night and Submission of the Night), 12 times. He also earned the most Fight of the Night awards in WEC history with five.

Four of his first five fights in the UFC earned post-fight bonuses, and to this day, he remains tied with Charles Oliveira for the most in promotional history. People questioning Cerrone’s Hall of Fame status because he never won a title need only look at those other numbers to see why he’s deserving of the honor.

Big Moments

UFC 206 in Toronto, Canada

At UFC 206, Donald Cerrone fought Matt Brown in the co-main event. Both men fought back-and-forth for two rounds showing incredible toughness. Cerrone found himself on the wrong end of a tight triangle choke in the first round and survived. In the second round, he was almost knocked out wobbling off his feet. Then finally in the third round, Cowboy landed a beautiful head kick that finished Matt Brown.

UFC’s 25th anniversary event in Denver, Colorado

It was only right to have a veteran like Donald Cerrone fight on the company’s 25th anniversary card. That night Cowboy fought Mike Perry in the co-main event. Coming into that fight, Perry was 5-3 in the UFC with four of his five wins being by knockout. Perry came into that fight as the betting favorite even though Cerrone was ranked number 12 in the division and Perry was unranked. Cowboy spent the entire first round trying to take Parry down but ended up being taken down later in the round. It wasn’t long before Cerrone reversed position and submitted Perry via arm-bar with less than 20 seconds left in the round.

UFC Fight Night 59 in Boston, Massachusetts

On this night of January 15th, 2015, Donald Cerrone got his revenge on longtime rival Benson Henderson. Prior to that fight, Cowboy was 0-2 against Henderson with both of those fights being for WEC gold. At UFC Fight Night 59, Cerrone avenged those earlier losses, winning a decision over Henderson and improving his record at the time to 14-3 in the UFC. Although it wasn’t for a title or a big comeback, this win still stands out when talking about Cerrone’s masterful career.