In large part, most MMA fighters that come from a Muay Thai background are not give much of a fair shake when it comes to the ground game. Regardless of how long they may have trained and fought in MMA competition, it’s hard for most of the general consensus to see past their striking origins.

This viewpoint was pointed out in an interesting context by Duane “Bang” Ludwig, when once in an interview he quipped that his representation in the UFC Sudden Impact video game had no submission moves, none whatsoever.

So when a Muay Thai fighter comes along and not only wins fights by submission, but does so in every single one of their matches, that’s cause for people to step up and take notice, even if they still don’t believe it’s possible.

Such is the paradox of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. A former rodeo rider turned Muay Thai kickboxer turned MMA fighter, Cerrone went undefeated in Muay Thai competition, going 22-0-1 before extending his undefeated streak to MMA, winning all his fights not by KO, but rather by submission.

This Saturday evening at the Broomfield Events Center, Donald will get a chance to see if he can keep his unique streak going as he faces off against fellow Muay Thai specialist Anthony Njokuani at Ring of Fire 29 in Broomfield, Colorado.

“I’m a stand-up fighter, but MMA has forced me to learn the ground game,” said Cerrone of his fighting transition. “When the guys want to go to the ground, we’ll go to the ground. If they want to keep it standing, we’ll stand. So I’ll kind of take it to wherever the other guy wants to take the fight.”

“Believe it or not, all the guys take me down to the ground and then I submit them. So, like I said, I’ll do the fight wherever they take it,” continued Donald with a chuckle.

After having an extremely successful Muay Thai career, Cerrone was asked why he decided to make the move to MMA.

“Well, because it’s hard to get Muay Thai fights,” replied Donald. “There’s only certain promoters that throw them anymore. And ever since the UFC and MMA [gained popularity] it seems that everyone’s either an MMA fighter or professional poker player. [Laughs] The sport’s just growing so much and the money and fame of it [the fight game] is leaning towards the MMA side of it.”

Next up for Cerrone is a match up of two undefeated fighters when he squares off against Anthony Njokuani in a battle that could very well be the show stealer at Ring of Fire 29 this Saturday.

“I know he comes from Saekson’s [Janjira] gym out of Dallas, so he’s going to have really difficult, traditional Muay Thai,” commented Donald. “So he’s going to want to stand in the middle of the ring and play ‘Owner of the Ring.’ So I’ve got to be careful and not get caught in the ‘you kick – I kick’ game plan that he’s going to have. I’m going to have to stick to my game plan.”

Cerrone added, “Yeah, I’d definitely like to stand with somebody and get a knockout, absolutely. Everybody wants a knockout, people like to see knockouts, but I’m there to win. I’m going to fight to win, and if not, I’m going to fight not to lose.”

Should Donald defeat Anthony at Ring of Fire 29, his impressive accolades could lead towards possibly taking that next step towards national recognition. But according to Cerrone, he’s not going to rush anything if he doesn’t feel it’s the right move.

“I just see where things drop and whatever happens, I’m not pushing anything. I just let what happens, happen,” explained Donald. “I don’t want to jump too soon and I don’t want to be held back too long. So I’m going to let my manager [do his job], see whatever contracts happen, and kind of let God’s will do His thing.”

Before the conversation closed out, Cerrone was asked if there was any correlation between his previous love, rodeo, and his current occupation of fighter.

“I’ll tell you what, riding – getting on the bull or fighting, you get similar jitters,” responded Donald. “Before I get on a bull or I’m back in the change room getting ready for a fight, pre-ride or pre-fight I’m like, ‘Oh God, here we go.’ Staring over at the guy in the ring, he’s trained six weeks to take your head off and the bull’s always ready to take you out, so they go hand-in-hand.”

So whether it’s riding a bull or submitting an MMA opponent, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is one of those fighters that is sometimes a contradiction, but always himself. And he urges fans to check out what he does best this Saturday at the Broomfield Events Center for Ring of Fire 29.

“Definitely I want to thank the fans, Tapout – my Number 1 sponsor, Greg Jackson and Jackson’s Submission Grappling down in Albuquerque, New Mexico where I train,” concluded Cerrone. “If the fans want to come out and see two warriors going head to head, it’s definitely going to be our fight, because we’re going to throw down and that’s just fine with me.”


(Photos courtesy April Pishna/