by Steven Marrocco – MMAWeekly.com
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone doesn’t get out of bed in the morning for Ben Henderson, even though that’s his next fight. It’s an important fight, too; the interim WEC lightweight title is up for grabs.
Instead, current lightweight champion Jamie Varner gets him up.
“Varner, he’s my wake-up,” Cerrone said on the MMAWeekly.com Radio Monday. “I wake up every morning and use Varner as getting ready to fight, because I know I get to fight him after this fight.”
To put it mildly, the two despise each other. Since Cerrone’s inadvertent foul brought a premature end to their WEC 38 war, they’ve resorted to name-calling in public. They bristle at the mention of one another.
Thus, it’s not good enough for Cerrone that the Saturday fight is for the belt. The rainbow’s end is Varner.
“The title doesn’t mean that much to me,” he said. “It’s like (expletive ) Varner says, it’s glorified second place.”
Some would say that’s a blueprint for upset, given Cerrone’s friendly terms with Henderson and eye beyond the fight. Not so, says “Cowboy.”
“I’m not looking past Ben at all,” he said. “He’s a dark horse, man, people don’t know much about him, but I do. I’ve grown up with him; I’ve seen him fight. He’s going to come out and bring it.”
The two were scheduled to fight in Youngstown, Ohio, last month, but Henderson injured his hand and the fight (and WEC 43 card) was moved to San Antonio, Texas. In the mean time, Cerrone drilled takedown defense at Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts. He picked the brain of recent gym addition Joe Stevenson, who schooled him on the finer points of Henderson’s specialty, the guillotine. He doesn’t subscribe to the popular idea of “peaking” for a fight.
“I feel like I’m peaking every day,” said Cerrone. “I always feel like I’m ready to go.”
Cerrone cautions fans against overlooking his championship experience. He’s already fought past three rounds once in his MMA career, and dealt with the attention of main event status. The two have been in the game around the same amount of time, though Cerrone stepped onto the WEC’s platform more than a year before Henderson, and has faced the division’s top tier competitors.
Cerrone says there’s no way for Henderson to prepare for the bright lights ahead.
“When (Henderson) gets off that plane… they’re going to have a camera in his face for five days,” he said. “His every move is now going to be now recorded, his warming up, his training, him getting ready for the fight. Everyone’s there to watch him. That’s huge pressure and huge stress, man.”
Still, the extension was welcome.
“It actually helped me out a little bit,” said Cerrone. “So thanks, Ben, I appreciate it.”
Varner will likely be in attendance at the Saturday show, sizing up his future competition. WEC matchmaker Sean Shelby said the champion would return late this year or early next year, though an exact date is not set. Varner has welcomed a rematch with Cerrone.
Meanwhile, Cerrone hopes his performance will send a message to the champion.
“I’m excited as hell,” he said. “I’m ready to go.”