We see by their outfits that they are both cowboys.
But that’s not how Alex Oliveira sees it.
Oliveira, the Brazilian MMA fighter who will face Albuquerque-based Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone on Sunday in the main event of a “UFC Fight Night” card in Pittsburgh, is claiming, he – not Cerrone – is the rightful owner of the nickname.
“I am the real cowboy,” Oliveira said in an interview with mmamania.com. “I used to ride on real bulls. I used to compete in real rodeos.”
Cerrone’s cowboy credentials are solid, as well. He owns and operates BMF Ranch (the first two words represented by the acronym are “bad” and “mother”), about 45 minutes outside Albuquerque. When he’s training at Jackson-Wink MMA, it’s not unusual to see Cowboy’s horse trailer (complete with horses) outside.
If there’s a controversy here, or even a grudge, Cerrone isn’t letting on. In a phone interview with the Journal, he seemed more amused than irritated.
“I don’t care about that,” Cerrone said. “That’s funny. … I don’t know how you can come in late to the game and say, ‘Oh, yeah, that guy’s not (a cowboy). I’m the real cowboy.’ Just a media spin on it, I guess.”
The original happy warrior, Cerrone needs little motivation beyond just having a fight. He made an exception for Myles Jury, whom he defeated by unanimous decision in January 2015 – punishing him with third-round leg kicks because he felt Jury hadn’t come to fight and because Jury had defeated Diego Sanchez, Cerrone’s Jackson-Wink teammate, and bragged about it.
But he seems to harbor no hostility toward Oliveira, despite the cowboy thing.
If Oliveira’s coming in late to the game as an MMA cowboy, he’s also coming in late to Sunday’s fight.
Cerrone originally was slated to fight Moriarty’s Tim Means, who trains in Albuquerque at FIT-NHB. A UFC fight between those rival gyms had never happened before.
Nor will it happen Sunday. In an out-of-competition drug test, Means tested positive for a banned substance – he denies knowingly having ingested anything that’s prohibited – and was pulled from the card.
Cerrone was aware of the excitement generated by the Jackson-Wink vs. FIT-NHB angle, but said he was never caught up in it.
“It was just a fight,” he said. “I think it meant more to FIT, just to try to get their name back.”
Means was pulled from the card 2½ weeks ago, and Oliveira accepted the fight the next day – giving Cerrone plenty of time to adjust. But Cerrone, who last year took a fight with former UFC champion Benson Henderson with 15 days notice – and won – cares nothing about such things.
“It doesn’t make a difference to me,” he said of the change in opponents. “The problem’s gonna lie on (Oliveira’s) side.”
This is Cerrone’s first fight at the welterweight limit of 170 pounds after a long career at lightweight (155). Oliveira (13-3-1), a career welterweight, believes he’ll have a size and strength advantage.
Once again, Cerrone (28-7) simply doesn’t care.
“Nothing’s changed at all,” he said of his training at Jackson-Wink. “I spar with bigger guys anyway, so there’s been no difference.”
Experience, without question, is on Cerrone’s side.
Oliveira is a relative newcomer to UFC competition, with just four previous fights under the circuit’s banner. This will be Cerrone’s 20th UFC fight.
Stylistically, Cerrone said, Oliveira is less a cowboy than a bull. Sunday’s fight has the potential for a brawl between two cowboys in an eight-sided saloon.
Of Cerrone’s 35 fights, only 11 have gone to the scorecards. Of Oliveira’s 17 fights, 13 have ended early.
The original MMA Cowboy likes the matchup.
“Oliveira’s definitely more unorthodox (than Means),” he said. “Way more wild. (It could be) a wild cage match, definitely.”
Cerrone said he hasn’t decided whether the move to 170 is temporary or permanent. But he’s enjoyed not having to make 155.
“There’s no weight cut at all,” he said. “I’m able to drink and eat whatever the hell I want, so it’s working out just fine.”
Cerrone is coming off a devastating loss by first-round TKO to Rafael Dos Anjos in a UFC lightweight title fight. But devastation is a relative term.
“I was over it right away,” he said. “Up and over.”
If he can get up and over Oliveira in Pittsburgh, the welterweight division could become his new home on the range.
Derek Brunson (14-3), Cerrone’s teammate at Jackson-Wink, is also on Sunday’s card. Brunson, a middleweight (185 pounds), will face Brazil’s Roan Carneiro (20-9).
The card starts at 3:30 p.m. MST, with three fights to be streamed on “UFC Fight Pass.” The Fox Sports 1 televised portion of the show starts at 5 p.m. The Cerrone-Oliveira and Brunson-Carneiro fights are headlining the main card, which begins at 7 p.m.