Donald Cerrone | Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- For most of his career, Donald Cerrone and wrestling have mixed about as well as a 6-year-old and a plate of vegetables.
Recently, however, the Colorado native has begrudgingly devoted more time to strengthening his weakest area. The extra work paid off during his decisive victory over Jamie Varner at WEC 51, where he stuffed the former lightweight champion’s takedowns while scoring several of his own.
“I just finally got it in my head to start taking wrestling seriously,” Cerrone said. “I hate drilling...But I finally reached that point in my career where I have to do it if I want to continue to win.”
Cerrone thinks his opponent at Thursday’s WEC 53, Chris Horodecki, might be more willing to accommodate his desire to keep the fight upright.
“I’m looking forward to getting in there and finally getting someone that’s gonna throw down,” said the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts product.
A former International Fight League standout, Horodecki holds a 2-1 mark in the WEC. In 18 bouts, the 23-year-old “Polish Hammer” has scored seven victories by knockout or technical knockout. His only losses have been at the hands of Ryan Schultz and Anthony Njokuani, the latter of which came in Horodecki’s WEC debut last December. As Horodecki jogged away from his opponent with his back turned, Njokuani capitalized with a head kick and finished the fight with punches on the ground.
Cerrone, who defeated Njokuani at a Ring of Fire event in 2007, compares Horodecki’s gaffe to his own mistake that allowed Ben Henderson to lock up a guillotine choke in the first round of their 155-pound title rematch at WEC 48.
“That’s the crazy thing about this sport,” he said. “I got caught slipping, and I got choked out by Ben. It’s the name of the game.”
A former muay Thai champion, Cerrone will try to use his length to keep the Team Tompkins fighter at bay. He believes that Horodecki’s compact frame might actually best be suited for featherweight.
“I definitely think he should be at 145. I have a huge reach on him, and I think that’s gonna play a big factor. I like to think my striking’s better than his. I’m gonna use my length as an advantage. I’m not gonna let him get inside on me,” said Cerrone.
It’s only fitting that Cerrone is part of the final WEC card before the promotion merges with the UFC in 2011. The “Cowboy” has managed to consistently deliver a high-quality product when stepping into the cage for the Zuffa-owned company, earning “Fight of the Night” or “Submission of the Night” honors in five of his last seven bouts.
The crowd at the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz., the site of WEC 53, might not be so appreciative of Cerrone’s work. Varner, a longtime Arizona Combat Sports trainee, is also on the card, and it’s possible that the fans in his home state could give his arch-rival a rude reception.
Not that Cerrone is concerned with how he will be received in Varner’s backyard.
“I don’t care. Boo, cheer -- I’m there to do one thing. Hopefully they boo me,” he said.
After Cerrone evened the score with Varner in September, there was rampant speculation that a rubber match would be imminent. Should it happen, a third meeting will have to occur inside the Octagon of the UFC.
“I’d definitely do a trilogy,” Cerrone said. “But to me, I went and did what I said I was gonna do. If it was a close fight, it’d have been different. I stole his soul.”
In the meantime, fighting in the UFC will supply Cerrone with a whole new lineup of fresh faces to add to his hit list. Even with Horodecki looming, Cerrone sees another potential target on the horizon.
“The first guy I want is Cole Miller. I got nothing bad to say about Cole, he’s a good dude. We just had this weird animosity. I’ve been wanting to fight him for years,” Cerrone said.
Miller defeated Leonard Garcia, Cerrone’s best friend and Jackson’s MMA teammate, in Garcia’s final UFC fight before moving to WEC in 2007.
After one final appearance in the organization where he made a name for himself, Cerrone is looking forward to joining a host of other talented fighters in the UFC.
“It’s cool to finally get to fight in the UFC. I’m excited for both: getting to fight on the last WEC and getting to fight in the UFC. It feels great,” he said.