Mixed martial artists come from every corner of the globe, bearing a variety of styles. Sometimes, fighters are products of their environment, favoring disciplines prevalent in the country or state from which they hail. Various regions of the United States are considered factories for great fighters, though that certainly is not the case with each state. In this weekly Sherdog.com series, the spotlight will shine on the best mixed martial artist of all-time from each of the 50 states. Fighters do not necessarily need to be born in a given state to represent it; they simply need to be associated with it. For example, reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight titleholder Robbie Lawler may have been born in San Diego, but few would recognize him as a Californian.
There are plenty of fighters from which to choose when discussing the state of Colorado, but a certain “Cowboy” stands out above the rest. Born in Colorado Springs, Donald Cerrone grew up fighting as a kid, so it was a natural move for him to enter the combat arts. That paved the way for one of the more successful lightweight careers of this generation.
While in high school, the multiple-time Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Extreme Cagefighting title contender started kickboxing and riding bulls professionally. Cerrone was far more effective at beating up people, and after he reportedly began his pro muay Thai career at 28-0, he switched over to MMA and never looked back. Cerrone kicked off his MMA run at the Freedom Fighters gym in Commerce City, Colorado, before dropping anchor at Jackson-Wink MMA and New Mexico, where he has now trained under Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn for many years. His entertaining style and willingness to go toe-to-toe with anyone he faces has made him a fan favorite.
Cerrone owns notable victories against Jamie Varner, Melvin Guillard, Evan Dunham, Eddie Alvarez, Edson Barboza, Jim Miller, Jeremy Stephens and Benson Henderson, but a major MMA championship has thus far eluded his grasp. He has pulled down 15 combined post-fight performance bonuses in WEC and UFC competition. Whether or not Cerrone ever captures a title, he will go down as one of the sport’s true warriors, a man who was willing to fight anyone anywhere at any time.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Duane Ludwig, Shane Carwin, Brendan Schaub, Cat Zingano, Bob Sapp