‘Cowboy’ Cerrone Sees Gold at UFC 246, but McGregor Can Destroy the Dream

Donald Cerrone

Getty UFC lightweight contender Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone poses at Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts & Fitness Academy

On Jan. 18, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone will make his 34th walk to the Octagon during UFC 246 against Conor “Notorious” McGregor. Once the bout begins, Cowboy will become the sole owner of the record for most fights in UFC history, surpassing Jim Miller. Cerrone is also the holder of multiple other UFC records, including most wins, performance bonuses and knockdowns. One can say that Cowboy has seen and done almost everything in the UFC, but there is still one feat that eludes him: winning a UFC title.

The 36-year-old Cowboy is working toward another title shot, and if he can get past McGregor at UFC 246, it will be an important step in that direction. But if Cowboy can’t get the job done on Jan. 18, he may find that a title shot will be too far out of his reach.

UFC 246 takes place January 18 at 10 p.m. Eastern time. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.

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If Cowboy Loses to McGregor, His UFC Championship Dreams May Be Derailed

Cerrone and McGregor are two of the very best UFC lightweights in the world. With Notorious officially ranked at fourth in the division and Cowboy at fifth, even though their fight is at welterweight, there are lightweight ramifications for both fighters. The UFC 246 main event is taking place at welterweight for the simple reason that the fighters didn’t want to cut the weight to get down to 155 pounds.

If McGregor wins, he will have several different opponents to pick from at either welterweight or lightweight, but he has made it clear that top of his list is a rematch against the lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. He is hoping to get by Cerrone and then be slotted in against either Nurmagomedov or Ferguson if one of them gets hurt before their UFC 249 lightweight title bout.

Cerrone is also on a quest for gold at lightweight. He recently moved back down to lightweight, after 10 fights at welterweight, with the agenda of earning himself a title fight. Cowboy’s start to his lightweight comeback was fantastic. He won his first two fights, including an impressive victory over the very tough Al Iaquinta at UFC Fight Night: Iaquinta vs. Cowboy.

Cowboy’s fortunes would soon take a turn, though. Cerrone was at the very top of the lightweight division after the Iaquinta fight, which granted him a match against Tony Ferguson. If Cowboy had won that fight, it would have been tough to deny him a title shot against Nurmagomedov. But, as history has it, Cerrone suffered a horrific doctor’s stoppage loss when he fought Ferguson at UFC 238. Because it was a doctor’s stoppage, there was still some stock in Cowboy fighting for the title if he could get over the hump of defeating a top contender.

So, three months later, at UFC Fight Night: Cowboy vs. Gaethje on Sept. 14, 2019, Cowboy once again had the opportunity to prove that he should be in the conversation for a title shot. That conversation dissipated, however, when Cerrone was finished in four minutes and 18 seconds by Justin Gaethje.

Now, four months later, Cowboy will be entering the black cage to fight McGregor on the heels of back-to-back losses to the division’s elite. If Notorious defeats Cerrone, especially in a devastating fashion, Cowboy may find himself in a tricky position.

If Cerrone loses to McGregor, he’ll have gone 0-3 in his last three fights, all to fighters that are ranked in the top five of the lightweight division. It would be tough for the UFC to sell a lightweight title fight with Cerrone if this is the situation that plays out, unless he goes on a superhero-like run.

The big questions that would come out of the fight, if McGregor gets his hand raised, are where does Cowboy go from here, and will he ever get another title shot?

With a failed stint at becoming the number one contender at welterweight, and featherweight presumably out of the question, Cerrone may find himself as a 36-year-old veteran gatekeeper with elite skill but who has never made it to the top of the mountain.

Cowboy’s First and Only UFC Title Fight Ended Abruptly

Cerrone has fought for UFC gold on one occasion, and that was over four years ago against then-UFC Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos. Cowboy earned the title shot by going on the most impressive run of his storied career, winning eight in a row, including five savage finishes.

In that run, he defeated many big names in the division, including former two-time Bellator Lightweight Champion and future UFC Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez, as well as Brazilian striking ace Edson Barboza. He also took out the man he is currently tied with for most fights in the UFC, Jim Miller, and won a close decision over former UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson.

Cowboy was riding a massive wave of momentum going into the title fight, where he would face the man who was responsible for his last defeat, dos Anjos. Interestingly, Cerrone’s rivalry with McGregor began when Cerrone was promoting his fight against dos Anjos at the UFC Go Big press conference.

The wave of momentum he was riding was abruptly halted in just over a minute into the fight when dos Anjos finished Cowboy with a body kick and punches.

After that defeat, Cowboy was faced with the realization that he had lost twice to the current champion. He then decided to move up a weight class in search of a fresh start and possible title run.

All in all, Cowboy fought 10 times at welterweight, including four wins by finish in his first four fights. That fan-pleasing streak lined him up to fight the division’s elite, but unfortunately for Cerrone, he lost vital matches that would have placed him into the welterweight title picture. He went 2-4 in his last six welterweight bouts before dropping back down to lightweight in January of last year.

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Will Cowboy Ride Off Into the Sunset With a UFC Championship Belt?

Cowboy is a shoo-in UFC Hall of Famer, with records that will take some time to surpass and fights that will forever live in fans’ memories. But the reality is that Cerrone needs to get past Conor McGregor at UFC 246 to avoid ending up in a precarious position. Cowboy wants the gold, and to give himself the best chance of getting it, he must take out the Irishman.

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