Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone cut his mixed-martial-arts teeth in his home state of Colorado, fighting on the Ring of Fire circuit a decade ago.
Since then, during a career that has made him one of the most popular fighters in the sport, he has fought all over the United States and in a couple of foreign countries. But he’s been back in Colorado to fight only once, in 2012.
That’s why, when the UFC announced plans to stage a show at Denver’s Pepsi Center on Saturday, Cerrone immediately clamored for a spot on the card.
He even tried to recruit an opponent.
“Any and all 170 lb ers,” he tweeted in December, “Please don’t respond to this just call (UFC President Dana White) or (matchmaker) Joe Silva and say ‘I will fight Cowboy January 28 in Denver.'”
Happily, Jorge Masvidal made the call. Cerrone (32-7) and Masvidal (31-11), of Miami, will meet in a featured fight on UFC on Fox 23.
Cerrone, who trains out of Albuquerque’s Jackson-Wink MMA, is a perfect 7-0 fighting in Colorado. He won his first six fights there and, in his only return since, beat Melvin Guillard by first-round knockout in August 2012. That was 16 fights ago for Cerrone, one of the UFC’s busiest fighters.
Does a fight in Denver — just a half-hour’s drive from his hometown of Broomfield — induce any butterflies, any distractions, any extra pressure?
“No, not at all,” he said Tuesday from Denver in a phone interview. “I love fighting at home. There’s no extra anything.”
Cerrone said he doesn’t know how many friends and family will attend, pretty much assuming everyone in the arena will be cheering for him.
“I hope they blow the roof off that place,” he said.
Cerrone has blown the roof off, figuratively speaking, since his recent move from the lightweight limit of 155 pounds to the welterweight division. He’s won four straight, one by submission, three by knockout or TKO.
His victories over Alex Oliveira, Patrick Cote and Rick Story all triggered $50,000 performance bonuses. In his most recent fight, on Dec. 11 in Toronto, he knocked Matt Brown out cold with a third-round head kick.
Now comes Masvidal, an excellent technical fighter who has won 17 fights by decision. Only eight of Cerrone’s 32 victories, and four of his seven defeats, have come via that route.
Might Masvidal seek to take the fight to the judges?
“I don’t know why he’d want to,” Cerrone said. “I get stronger and stronger as the rounds go on.
“But why would I care? I’m going out looking for a finish. That’s what I do.”
Every time he fights these days, Cerrone is at least on the verge of making MMA history.
A victory on Saturday would be Cerrone’s 20th in UFC competition, tying him with middleweight champion Michael Bisping for the most all time. A win by stoppage would tie him for the most in UFC history with Vitor Belfort and Anderson Silva.
Such things, Cerrone said, are not why he fights.
But they’re nice — a pleasant byproduct of what he loves doing.
“It’s cool,” he said, “that every time we fight we keep setting records. So it’s good.”
BORG TO BRAZIL: Albuquerque flyweight Ray Borg will fight Jussier “Formiga” da Silva on March 11 in Fortaleza, Brazil, according to multiple online reports. The UFC has made no announcement.
Borg (10-2), who trains at Jackson-Wink, is coming off an impressive victory by unanimous decision over Louis Smolka in December in Las Vegas, Nev. A fight with Formiga (19-4), ranked fourth in the UFC 125-pound division, is a high-risk, high-reward proposition. Borg is 12th in the rankings.
Julianna Peña vs. Valentina Shevchenko, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone vs. Jorge Masvidal, several other fights. FS1, 3 p.m. Fox, 6 p.m.