When Donald Cerrone lost a one-sided fight to Leon Edwards at UFC Fight Night 132 in Singapore less than a year ago, it looked like his best days were behind him. “Cowboy” had lost four times in five appearances, and it appeared as though the many wars in which he had engaged had finally taken their toll. Fast forward a year later, and Cerrone finds himself on a three-fight winning streak and riding the momentum of one of his finest performances: a systematic dismantling of Al Iaquinta in the UFC Fight Night 151 headliner on Saturday in Ottawa, Ontario.
The win puts “Cowboy” back in title contention in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s lightweight division, an improbable turnaround that Cerrone himself cannot explain.
“I don’t have an answer for you,” Cerrone said during a post-fight media scrum. “I don’t have the secret clickbait thing for you to say ‘Cowboy is doing this now.’ I have no idea. I’m still living life. I’m having fun. Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed to when I used to train and fight then to now. We put the work in, though. I don’t have a secret recipe why I am winning now. I don’t have a secret recipe why I am putting wins together.”
Cerrone, who holds the all-time records for most wins, knockdowns landed and finishes in UFC history, believes the victory should earn him his long-awaited second shot at promotional gold.
“I feel like I am the best in the world,” he said. “This is where I belong. For the UFC to not give me a title shot, I would step back and be thoroughly disappointed. I would be like, ‘Wow, a guy that has done all this for the sport. I don’t trash talk. I go in there and deliver every time, and you are going to overlook me for somebody else.’ I would be really upset and be like, ‘Wow, that’s the company I work for.’ Which I am not saying [it] is going to happen by any means. I would just be thrown back.”
While Cerrone wants another title fight to help cement his legacy, he seems more than willing to face off with the sport’s most recognizable star, Conor McGregor, as a consolation prize.
“If Conor wants to fight, then [expletive] yeah,” Cerrone said. “Let’s go.”
Cerrone and McGregor have hinted at a possible fight with one another since “Cowboy” defeated Alexander Hernandez in January. While the former Jackson-Wink MMA fighter does not believe in trash talking, he did leave the Irishman with a little message while speaking with Paul Felder on the ESPN+ post-fight show.
“Dude, get a grip on life, bro.” Cerrone said. “July against Conor McGregor. Let’s go.”
Walt Harris was matched with previously undefeated UFC newcomer Sergey Spivak in a heavyweight showcase, and “The Big Ticket” did not provide the Ukrainian the warmest of welcomes. Harris swarmed and put away “The Polar Bear” in less than a minute, all while earning a “Performance of the Night” bonus. During his post-fight interview, the former NCAA basketball player called for a step up in competition, naming Alexey Oleynik and Justin Willis as possible opponents.
“I think the Oleynik fight is a good fight for me, and I think it is a way for me to break into the Top 10,” Harris said. “Alexey and I have trained together. We are good friends. I think it would be a fun little story for you guys to spin.”
Oleynik was Harris’ originally scheduled opponent, but “The Boa Constrictor” was repurposed and instead headlined a UFC Fight Night event opposite Alistair Overeem in St. Petersburg, Russia, two weeks ago. While Harris pointed toward Oleynik in a friendly manner, he did not do the same for Willis.
“Justin Willis is just a fight the fans have been asking me for,” Harris said. “I have got tagged in so many people a day on social media about fighting Justin Willis, so I hit him up and said, ‘Let’s do it.’ He kind of played it to the left like I wasn’t on his level, which kind of pissed me off. Any day he wants to share the Octagon, I’m with it, and I will make an example out of him. He just rubs me the wrong way. He’s brash and not that good. The guy just isn’t that good. I just got to keep it 100. I don’t see nothing in his game that makes me say ‘Wow.’ It would be a fun fight for me for sure.”
Harris may have had trouble settling on exact target, be he does have an idea where he wants his next fight to take place.
“I just want to fight in Abu Dhabi in September if I can,” Harris said. “Whoever the UFC gives me, I pride myself on being a company man. Whoever they offer me, I will be ready.”
FIGHTING WITH A HEAVY HEART
Matt Sayles submitted Kyle Nelson with an arm-triangle choke in a back-and-forth affair on the undercard. Though he took pride in his first UFC win, personal matters overshadowed the experience. A tearful Sayles opened up to the media about a situation weighing heavily on him.
“My brother’s homeless,” he said. “He struggles with addiction. A lot of my family has before. He was actually shot and almost lost his life on the streets, so dealing with that and having to deal with my last loss, it was tough. I’m glad to get that W.”
A graduate of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, Sayles offered hope to those dealing with similar circumstances.
“Just stay tough,” he said. “If they are not ready for the help, then you can’t help them, but show them the love anyways because you don’t know if they will be there tomorrow. Since the beginning, it has been the goal to make fighting a platform to share my feelings with the world, [to] be raw with it, show my feelings, be who I am and hopefully inspire others to follow my footsteps.”