Hundreds of thousands of democrats have migrated West to Denver, Colorado this week for the Democratic National Convention. And relatively close by, 12 fighters from Greg Jackson’s MMA have flocked from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Vail, Colorado, in search of high altitude training to give them an additional edge for upcoming fights.
One of those fighters is none other than 8-0 WEC lightweight sensation Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, who is quickly converging on lightweight title contender status following two victories in his first two fights with the promotion.
One of the wins was ruled a no contest by the Nevada State Athletic Commission after Cerrone tested positive for a banned diuretic. Following the positive test, NSAC suspended the 25-year old. However, he returned with a vengance this past June, submitting Danny Castillo with an armbar at 1:30 of round 1 during WEC 34.
Now Cerrone is just weeks out from the biggest fight of his career; a showdown at WEC 36 on Sept. 10 in Hollywood, Fla. with former WEC lightweight champion “Razor” Rob McCullough. Despite being in the midst of final preparations for the fight, Cerrone still made time for an exclusive interview with FiveOuncesOfPain.com in which he revealed that the winner of the fight between he and McCullough will be granted a title shot against current champion Jamie Varner in December.
During the one-on-one conversation, Cerrone also addressed his suspension for the banned diuretic; why he decided to get involved with MMA after a strong kickboxing career; what his experience was like being featured on the VERSUS reality TapouT show; whether he was ever considered for “The Ultimate Fighter,” and more.
Sam Caplan: As we do this interview I am talking to you while you’re in Colorado. Can you talk about which camp you’re training with for this fight and who you are training with?
Donald Cerrone: Yeah, I am up here in Vail, Colorado. I brought about 12 guys from (Greg) Jackson’s up here at Inyodo Martial Arts up in Vail. I brought about 12 guys and then have guys up here like Duane Ludwig; my Brazilian instructor has come up from Brazil; and we’ve got a couple of guys from England. So we kind of transplated our camp up here in Vale for the last couple of weeks at 10,000 feet.
Sam Caplan: Did you go out to Vale just for the altitude or did you go because maybe there aren’t a lot of guys getting ready for fights right now at Greg Jackson’s?
Donald Cerrone: Oh yeah, it has to do with the altitude. And the last couple of weeks (before a fight) are always hard and I think just to improve my focus I come up here. It’s just kind of peaceful during the last week of cutting and it just kind of gets my mind right. That’s one of the main reasons why I come up here.
Sam Caplan: You mentioned weight cutting and I wanted to ask you about the suspension you received following WEC 30 when you tested positive for a diuretic. Can you discuss your motivations behind using it?
Donald Cerrone: I didn’t take it to cut the weight, which was the problem. I took it because I had a really bad staph infection and I took it to clean out my system to get rid of the medications I had been on. The medications I was using to treat the condition made me feel worse than the staph infection did. The weight cutting is never a problem for me so a lot of people are misled by thinking that.
Sam Caplan: Can you talk a little more about staph, which has become pretty common in a lot of gyms. It’s almost an epidemic it seems. I assume you picked it up from training with someone?
Donald Cerrone: Yeah, I either picked it up here in Colorado or down at Greg’s. I had it really bad. I had it in my armpit and in the pit in the back of my legs, my arm, and down my leg. It was bad, man. It was in my bloodstream and I was in the hospital a couple of days right before the fight. The medication they gave me made me feel like crap so I had the diuretic to help me get cleaned out. The weight was no problem and I popped a 25mg pill, which was next to nothing but it is what it is. The suspension was good for me. It helped me work on a lot of things I needed to work on.
Sam Caplan: I train to and most of the people I train with have good hygiene. But every now and then I will train with a someone who obviously hasn’t showered and really smells. How do you handle a situation like that?
Donald Cerrone: I really don’t run into that problem too much. Usually the guys that I roll with are pretty clean. They don’t really stink or are dirty like that.
Sam Caplan: The WEC is building up their 155 lbs. division and they recently added former IFL fighter Bart Palaszewski to the roster. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with him, but I wanted to know if I could get your thoughts on him?
Donald Cerrone: I’m not really familiar with that guy. I just never really paid attention to the IFL much so I don’t really know much about that guy. I really don’t know about most opponents because I don’t follow the sport too much. I just worry about my own thing, if that makes any sense?
Sam Caplan: If you’re not a fan, what was the driving force for you getting involved in MMA as a competitor?
Donald Cerrone: Aw man, to be honest with you, the money. I was doing kickboxing and I kept winning fights and eventually Sven Bean (promoter for Ring of Fire) offered me a great deal of money to take a fight and so that’s what I did.
Sam Caplan: When you were first approached about it though, what was your outlook on MMA?
Donald Cerrone: I had never really gotten into it all but I remember coming from a kickboxing background and I was like “I doubt I’ll submit anybody. I’ll just keep knocking people out.” And then I got into the whole jiu-jitsu thing and now I’ve been pulling off submissions and I’ve kind of reversed roles (laughs).
Sam Caplan: You mentioned that you don’t keep up with opponents. Is MMA strictly business for you? I mean, if you’re at home and a fight is on TV do you just flip through the channels or is it something you might stop and watch?
Donald Cerrone: It’s kind of strictly business. I’ll watch if there’s an opponent of mine I might have to fight that I know is going to be on there, or a friend of mine. I have a lot of friends now in MMA so I pay a lot of attention to what they’re doing. But I try not to make it my whole life because then it just drags me down. You know, that’s all I eat, sleep, and drink. I’ve got to keep my mind clear on other things.
Sam Caplan: There’s been a lot of speculation about changes to the WEC and some merging of weight classes. I’ve heard some reports that suggest that the WEC lightweight division won’t be effected and I’ve heard other reports that it could be merged with the UFC’s 155 lbs. division? If the lightweight divisions of the WEC and UFC were merged, would you have a problem with that?
Donald Cerrone: Aw man, I’d be excited for that bro. Whoever they want me to fight, whenever. I’m game for whatever. That would’t effect me at all. If it stays, it stays. If it goes, it goes.
Sam Caplan: Dan Lauzon was featured on VERSUS’ TapouT reality TV show and his brother, Joe Lauzon, was none too pleased how they edited the show. You were also featured on TapouT. How would you describe your experience with the show?
Donald Cerrone: I love those guys. They did a lot for me and they still do a lot for me. They’ve done two shows with me, including a “Where are they now” program. It was a lot of fun and I’ve got nothing but love for them. I thought they captured who I was well. I didn’t see the episode with Lauzon so I can’t be critical about it.
Sam Caplan: Speaking of reality television, I wanted to ask you about “The Ultimate Fighter.” It seems like prior to making it to the big time with the WEC you had the perfect profile for TUF. Were you ever approached about the show or did you ever try out?
Donald Cerrone: Yeah, I was approached a couple of times about the show. And man, I just don’t know what happened (laughs). I’m not too sure but one time I was going to go for it and another time I wasn’t. I train with a lot of guys like Rashad (Evans) and Keith (Jardine) who have done the show and there’s pros and cons; they lock you down in that contract and I don’t know if I’m prepared to get locked in a contract like that, you know? They kind of own you, if that makes any sense?
Sam Caplan: Yes, it does. It’s like you’re locked in at a mid-level rate for 9-12 fights.
Donald Cerrone: Exactly.
Sam Caplan: So what’s your contract situation with the WEC right now?
Donald Cerrone: Right now I believe I have four fights left.
Sam Caplan: Is it non-exclusive? Because sometimes I’ll see guys fight in the WEC and then if they don’t get a fight in three or four months they will fight in a smaller promotion before coming back. Is that an option you have?
Donald Cerrone: No. I’m exclusive with the WEC.
Sam Caplan: I wanted to ask you about your next fight on Sept. 10 at WEC 36 against “Razor” Rob McCullough. Have they told you whether you’ll receive a lightweight title shot at Jamie Varner if you win that fight?
Donald Cerrone: Yeah, they have. It’s for the number one spot to go after Varner in Decemer. But as far as Rob, I’m really excited. He’s a world class striker. Everyone kind of forgot that I am a kickboxer so I’m going to go out and show what I can do. In the end I will look for a submission but I’m ready to go out and stand and bang, man.
Sam Caplan: Have you seen some of McCullough’s recent performances?
Donald Cerrone: Yeah, I have. I’ve watched his last several fights.
Sam Caplan: Since losing the title to Varner he hasn’t looked the same. He came back and fought Ken Alexander and seemed real tentative. What did you think of his performance in that fight?
Donald Cerrone: It kind of felt like he was a little gun-shy but some people just have an off day so I can’t really judge my training on that. I’ve been judging my training on his past fights with his kickboxing and how he used to fight. I’m ready for him to come out strong and for him to stay strong, which is what I am looking forward to.
Sam Caplan: What do you think of Varner as a champion? When you see him fight, do you see a lot of weaknesses?
Donald Cerrone: I wouldn’t say weaknesses. Everyone has got weaknesses. But I see some holes in his game that could be worked on and I’m excited to see Jamie Varner and that’s an option I am looking forward to as well in the near future.
Sam Caplan: If you beat McCullough and get the title shot, have they told you much about when and where it will take place? I know you mentioned December as a possibility.
Donald Cerrone: There are talks that they could be coming to Denver, Colorado so that would be totally awesome if we could figure something like that out. But officially, I don’t know where it’s going to be right now.
Sam Caplan: Did they tell you when they might come to Denver?
Donald Cerrone: For the December card, I think. But it’s just talk. There was talk that maybe they would come here for this one but they couldn’t get it arranged in time.