It was a night of transition for Edgewood’s Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
First, Jim Miller transitioned from a body kick to a guillotine choke — forcing Cerrone to tap out in the second round of their welterweight fight Saturday in Las Vegas, Nevada on UFC 276.
Moments later, Cerrone transitioned from MMA fighter to former MMA fighter turned actor.
“I don’t love it anymore,” Cerrone said in the Octagon after laying his gloves and his trademark black cowboy hat on the cage floor. “I’m not complaining at anybody, but I just don’t love it anymore.
“I’m going to be a movie star, baby. It’s time to bow out.”
As was mentioned on Saturday’s ESPN telecast, Cerrone has acting roles in “The Terminal List,” a new Amazon Prime series starring Chris Pratt, and in a film involving former MMA star and former “The Mandalorian” co-star Gina Carano.
Cerrone’s retirement announcement came as a surprise, given that only days before he’d been talking about setting UFC records for achievement and longevity that “people can’t even touch.”
Instead, it was Miller who broke a tie with Cerrone and Andrei Arlovski, Cerrone’s former teammate at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA, for the most UFC wins (24). He also expanded to 40 his record for total UFC fights.
Cerrone retires with 23 wins and 38 fights in the UFC.
“One hell of a career, man,” he said. “Hopefully one day I’m in the Hall of Fame. Thank you so much, UFC.”
Cerrone had talked during fight week about reaching a total of 50 fights under the banner of Zuffa, including UFC and WEC, a Zuffa-owned circuit for lighter-weight fighters that the UFC absorbed in 2011. Cerrone had claimed to have 48 such fights entering Saturday’s, though his fight-by-fight record now adds up to 48 — 38 in the UFC and 10 in the WEC.
If Miller had any problem with being upstaged by Cerrone’s retirement announcement, it didn’t show.
“It’s hard to follow that,” he said. “Donald’s a legend. He’s a guy that I look up to, that I’m a fan of. We’re gonna miss him.”
It seems unlikely that Cerrone will simply disappear from the sport, since many fighters come to his BMF Ranch in Edgewood to train.
He finishes his career at age 39 with a record of 36-17 with two no contests. In UFC competition, he’s 24-14, finishing with six consecutive losses.
Saturday, in a competitive first round, Miller (35-16) scored a takedown some three minutes in. But with a minute left, Cerrone got a reversal and finished the round on top.
In the decisive moments of the second, both fighters threw kicks simultaneously. Cerrone’s landed on Miller’s neck, but Cerrone lost his balance.
Quickly, seeing his opportunity, Miller secured the choke, dragged Cerrone to the ground and forced the tap-out.
In one of two UFC title fights that headlined Saturday’s card, Alexander Volkanovski defeated Max Holloway for the third time Saturday night, defending his featherweight title by unanimous decision with a dominant striking performance.
Israel Adesanya also retained his middleweight belt with a tepid unanimous-decision victory over Jared Cannonier in the main event at T-Mobile Arena on the Vegas Strip.
Volkanovski (25-1) extended his winning streak to 22 fights with a commanding display against Holloway (23-7), the former champion at 145 pounds. Volkanovski executed a sharp boxing game plan against one of the UFC’s best punchers, bloodying Holloway’s face early on and steadily increasing the punishment into the final minutes.
Holloway’s entire face was crimson at the final bell. Volkanovski won every round on all three judges’ scorecards, 50-45.
“Max Holloway is an absolute beast,” Volkanovski said. “That intensity that we both had, I needed it. I really needed it. I had to get in my own head.”
Adesanya (23-1) won his belt three years ago as one of the UFC’s most entertaining fighters and personalities, but his elaborate ring walk might have been the most thrilling part of his dry, technical victory over the cautious Cannonier (15-6).
After copying famed professional wrestler The Undertaker on a walk that included the wrestler’s signature hat and a large urn, Adesanya patiently picked at Cannonier with kicks and occasional punches for five rounds. Cannonier, getting his first UFC title shot at 38 years old, struggled to find a consistent striking range, and he didn’t show enough desperation to figure it out.
Adesanya won on all three judges’ scorecards, 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46. He has never lost a UFC middleweight fight, but he has just one stoppage victory in his five 185-pound fights since 2019.
“It was really hard to get going, because they had an excellent game plan,” Adesanya said.