LAS VEGAS – Donald Cerrone isn't going to be named mixed martial arts Fighter of the Year, except, perhaps, by his family.
He probably won't get a vote for it, either. He needs a win over Ed Ratcliff on Saturday at WEC 45 at The Pearl at The Palms simply to end the year with a break-even mark.
But if you're the type that likes jaw-dropping action just about every time out, then Cerrone is most definitely your man.
Cerrone entered 2009 with a 9-0 record, 10-0 if you count a 2007 victory that was erased and changed to a no contest when he tested positive for a diuretic. He goes into the Ratcliff fight with a 10-2 record, but there are few fighters on the World Extreme Cagefighting roster other than featherweight champion Jose Aldo who are more routinely exciting than Cerrone.
His loss to Ben Henderson in October is being hailed by some as the 2009 Fight of the Year. His controversial defeat to bitter – perhaps hated – rival Jamie Varner in January was Fight of the Night and was another one that was stunning in its brutality.
And he closed 2008 with a Fight of the Night effort in a win over "Razor" Rob McCullough.
Yet, as much as he's become a crowd favorite, the crowd has little impact upon him as he's fighting. He's a fierce competitor who is constantly looking for a finish and that, more than trying to get a rise out of the audience, is what fuels him.
"I think I more feed off my opponent than anything else," Cerrone said. "When I feel him getting weaker and tired, I'm more motivated to push harder and keep going forward. I really don't feed off the crowd. You don't even know the crowd's there, to be honest. It's crazy.
"It's hard to explain. You see them when you walk out, but once you start fighting, you have no idea (that they're there). You're so into the zone and focused on what you're doing you don't realize it."
His fight with Henderson was an MMA classic that featured all aspects of the sport: There were huge punches and kicks landed, numerous submission attempts and fast scrambles.
Henderson won a close decision that was hotly disputed. Cerrone, a blunt speaker who never hesitates to say what's on his mind, oddly didn't disagree.
He said he thought Henderson won the fight, despite public sentiment that disagreed. In his view, the bout came down to how the first round was judged. Cerrone had a series of near-submissions, but Henderson managed to fight all of them off to survive.
"With the judging now, if you're a wrestler and you've taken someone down and you control him, they'll give you the fight," Cerrone said. "It's weird, but it's like they don't give you any points for submission attempts, points for getting up. It's like a weird scoring system. It's something they need to work on. But shoulda, woulda, coulda. There's nothing I can do about it now.
"I had my 25 minutes to do what I could. I'm not going to complain and say I should have won. I'm going to be a humble guy and say, 'Ben, good job. I think he won it,' even if I don't totally agree with it."
One thing he's certain of is the fact he'll defeat Ratcliff on Saturday. He didn't mince words in his assessment of how the fight will go.
Ratcliff, he said, isn't in his league as a fighter and he'll prove that on Saturday.
"I can pretty much win this fight anywhere," Cerrone said. "My wrestling is better than his, my jiu-jitsu is way better than his and my standup, I've been doing it way longer than him. I don't feel like he poses a threat to me in any area. I feel like I can end the fight pretty much where I want."
He'll get a much stiffer test if and when he gets the chance to meet Aldo, the dynamic featherweight champion. Cerrone isn't planning a full-time move to 145, but said he can make the weight and would like to challenge several of the top featherweights.
That could set the possibility that he'll fight for both the lightweight and the featherweight belt in 2010.
"That would be awesome," Cerrone said. "But the bottom line in all of this is that I think it's about big fights, more than anything else. I don't want to fight guys that mean nothing. I want to take risks, to fight guys who are dangerous and who will get people talking. My whole motivation in this is to challenge myself and fight the best guys in the world."
- Donald Cerrone