ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Never mind the fact his name sits atop a major UFC card for the first time.
Or that the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J., site of tonight’s fight, is nearly 2,000 miles from Albuquerque.
And who cares that he has a free set of plane tickets and a plush hotel suite with his name on it?
It’s fight week for Jackson-Winkeljohn trained fighter Donald Cerrone, which means only one thing for the wildly popular lightweight title contender.
The “Cowboy” rides again.
Last Wednesday, Cerrone, his girlfriend, best friend and a couple of coaches piled into his 43-foot Tiffin Phaeton motor home and left Albuquerque for New Jersey, where he fights Jim Miller in the main event of the “UFC Fight Night,” which will be nationally televised on Fox Sports 1.
“We ride everywhere,” Cerrone told the Journal of his road-tripping ways in a phone interview from an Atlantic City RV park. “Man, I’ve been doing this since the WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting, which merged with UFC in 2010) days. I just never really talk about it. Yeah, I’m really slumming in an RV park now.”
With a victory tonight, Cerrone (23-6), owner of more post-fight bonuses than any fighter in UFC/WEC history, according to the UFC, could land in the top five of the lightweight rankings, with a title shot inching ever closer.
So is a cross-country trek in an RV really the best route to take before such a big fight?
“It’s just a journey,” Cerrone said. “Life’s a journey. You can’t just rely on everything going perfect. The snags you run into build character.”
He’s built up plenty of character, so far, in his 31 years.
During past stints for fight weeks at the Oasis RV Park in Las Vegas, Nev., he’s attended RV Halloween parties (he dressed up like a pirate), taken advantage of the park’s putting greens and community horseshoe pit, and has joined in on a Christmas party. In Chicago on one winter road trip, the water lines in the RV froze.
On this trip alone, Cerrone and his traveling party hit up the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis (Budweiser is one of Cerrone’s top sponsors), visited a Six Flags amusement park and hit a bump in the road, if you will, outside of St. Louis.
“We took out a gas pump at a gas station – gas everywhere,” Cerrone said with a bit of a chuckle. “They had to hit the emergency pump shut off; the cops came, an ambulance. It was like a big deal. We were just standing there laughing, and I was like, ‘How dumb do I feel right now?’ ”
Such ordeals may be viewed by some in the fight game – OK, just about all – as a distraction.
“People are like, ‘You have a big fight coming up, what are you doing?’ ” Cerrone said. “I’m like, ‘When’s the fight? Oh yeah, not until next Wednesday. I’ll be ready Wednesday. What do you want me to do until then?’ I live my life. That’s what I do.”
His home-on-wheels provides Cerrone with a high-quality Tempur-Pedic bed; a fridge stocked full of food, and yes, Budweiser; a full kitchen; and enough toys to keep him busy, including plenty of guns he and buddies often take to shooting ranges along the way.
And yes, the road activities do include finding a gym here or there to train. After all, he is still an elite-level professional athlete.
That’s just not all he is.
“People think just because of training they have to shut their whole world down and just focus on training,” Cerrone said. “(Some people) focus on what they want most, and I focus on what I want now. Probably one day, it’ll kick me in the ass, but until then …. Look nothing is going to interfere with what happens Wednesday (today). I’ll be ready.”
Ah yes, the fight with Miller (24-2), another top-10 ranked lightweight who hasn’t lost since May 2012 and is fighting in his home state.
“This is going to be a fun one,” Cerrone said. “I’m in shape. He’s in shape. This is going to be a nonstop, ass-whoopin’ good time.”
And win or lose, when it’s over, Cerrone already knows he’s got a ride home.
Just not before he visits Niagara Falls and wherever else the road might take him.