Why Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone gave up a sure UFC title shot

When Khabib Nurmagomedov was forced by injury to pull out of his UFC 187 lightweight No. 1 contender’s match against Donald Cerrone, "Cowboy" could have been made the default next title challenger. After all, Cerrone has already won seven straight fights, including ones over the likes of former champion Benson Henderson, rising contender Myles Jury, Eddie Alvarez and Edson Barboza.

The fact is, Cerrone already had an argument going for him that he should be the next in line to face new champion Rafael dos Anjos. With Nurmagomedov (who beat dos Anjos in his last contest, over a year ago) out of their fight at the last minute, Cerrone seemed poised to simply wait for the inevitable championship bout.

Cerrone had no interest in a free pass, however, and insisted to UFC president Dana White that he be given a replacement opponent so that he could still fight at UFC 187. Cerrone got John Makdessi, who is fresh off a huge KO win at UFC 186 in Montreal, and the "Cowboy" now risks losing his title shot.

"Dana called me up and told me that Khabib was out," Cerrone tells FOX Sports, "and I told him, ‘OK, so who is going to replace him?’"

Cerrone tells us that he didn’t for a moment consider the "smart" path of sitting out, waiting for either Nurmagomedov to heal or simply for a title fight, instead. "Not at all," he says.

"It pissed off my coaches and manager. Once he got injured, if I would have waited, I would have gotten a title shot. But I don’t want to do that. It isn’t my style."

In the last year and a half, Cerrone has fought an astounding 10 times in the UFC. He’s already fought twice this year. 

It is most certainly the kickboxer’s style to fight often and fight whomever. We can’t help but wonder why exactly that is.

Has Cerrone found his rythym and does he simply feel as though he’s at his best when he fights so frequently? Perhaps, but Cerrone is also to the point in saying a lot of it simply has to do with money.

"Let’s just talk about the money part," he begins.

"I’ve already spent $20,000 on this camp so far. I put a lot of money into building this gym at my ranch, and I’ve brought in coaches and training partners to live with me. I think I’ve had about 18 guys here on the ranch with me. We’ve done almost an entire training camp, I’ve had these guys living with me, they’ve put in a lot. What am I going to tell them, ‘OK guys, that’s it, see you next time’? I wasn’t going to do it.

"I just look at it like my job. You’re doing this interview because it’s your job, right? I signed a contract to fight at UFC 187, so I’m going to fight at UFC 187, whoever it is against. It’s the same thing."

Cerrone did lament the loss of his original opponent, however. The free spirit tells us that he’d concentrated his camp on preparing for the wrestler Nurmagomedov.

"Man, I am so (expletive) ready for this fight," he says.

"We trained so much wrestling, I have such great wrestlers here helping me with that. I improved so much there. I really wanted to have that fight."

Cerrone says that his wrestling work will serve him well against Nurmagomedov, whenever they should meet. "Definitely," he says.

Despite that, Cerrone is never too disappointed about the prospect of standing on his feet and duking it out with another striker like Makdessi. "I wanted the fight with Khabib and was ready for it, but now we’ve got Makdessi. Great," he says.

"So, now we’ve got two guys who will go in there looking to knock the other out. That’s what people want to see, anyway. I love it."