by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
It’s no secret that Colorado has developed some of MMA’s brightest and best talents over the years. From veterans like Nate Marquardt and Duane “Bang” Ludwig, to the current crop of young standouts like Leonard Garcia and Alvin Robinson, there’s no shortage to the state’s supply of talent – and it doesn’t stop there.

Currently there’s a group of fighters that will be making their major league MMA debuts, continuing the tradition of great Colorado fighters that have come before them, including one of the sport’s more enigmatic young talents making his debut at this Wednesday’s WEC event in Las Vegas, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.

If wearing a cowboy hat to the ring with Muay Thai gear during his fights wasn’t enough of a paradox, the striking-based Cerrone has managed to go undefeated in six fights, finishing all his opponents not with his fists or feet, but with submissions.

Enigma or not, with the recent move to Greg Jackson’s MMA team in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Donald has had his game upgraded and looks to fulfill his potential even further, starting at Wednesday’s WEC event against Kenneth Alexander.

“You know, the reality of it kind of hit me when I got here, it’s like a little UFC, and it’s very cool, man,” chuckled Cerrone about his arrival to the next level of MMA. “To walk into a sports bar and see yourself on TV and people recognize you, it’s crazy, man. To be flipping channels at home and see yourself on TV, it’s a crazy feeling, but I’m excited for it.”

To those unfamiliar with Donald, he’s been building a steady following in his native Colorado, mainly for the Ring of Fire promotion, due to his always-entertaining style of fighting – which, at times, has gotten him into trouble in the past.

“I’ve been working a lot on my wrestling – so hopefully I can defend the takedown now – instead of being taken down by wrestlers all the time,” laughed Cerrone. “The guy I was supposed to fight originally [Sergio Gomez] was a stand-up guy, but now they’ve got me with another wrestler [Kenneth Alexander], but I’ve had this kind of fight five or six times already.”

Donald continued, “It’s same deal, where wrestlers want to take me down and ground and pound, and in the interview the guy [Alexander] is saying he definitely wants to take it to the ground. So, if I can scramble and stay on my feet I should be fine, if I get taken down I can always work a submission.”

Helping Cerrone develop his overall game is one of the sport’s premier trainers, Greg Jackson, and as Donald puts it, it all begins with the little details first and then expands from there.

“Working with Greg Jackson, I’ve been expanding on my everything,” commented Cerrone. “Working on my striking from guard, looking at little things that I’ve been doing wrong and making more sense of it now, just adapting my gameplan.”

“He’s molding me into the fight that I want to become, so it’s happening, slowly but surely,” further commented Donald.

Having someone as detail oriented as Greg Jackson in his corner not only prepares Cerrone with a gameplan for each fight, but it allows him to leave the details to Jackson, freeing up Donald to go out and perform naturally, without restrictions.

“To have a gameplan instead of just going in there off the hip, it’s totally like night and day,” exclaimed Cerrone. “I feel a lot more confident as a fighter having him in my corner.”

Donald added, “Usually I come out so timid to throw because I know the wrestlers are going to try to take me down, but this time I’m prepared. So, I think I’m just coming out guns-a-slinging, ready to go, use my sprawl, use everything.”

Yet another area of Greg Jackson’s supervision that is having a big impact on Cerrone’s career is the fact that unlike some people in the sport, Jackson knows how to develop talent slowly, only allowing them to step into situations he feels they are ready for, instead of throwing them in over their heads just for a paycheck.

“I love having someone that actually cares where you go with your career and is not just, ‘Yeah, yeah, great, take that fight, awesome, just pay me my monthly dues,'” said Donald. “I thoroughly enjoy working with Greg, and it’s like a family down here.”

“Keith [Jardine] is getting ready to fight Chuck [Liddell], working with Rashad [Evans], Leonard Garcia and all those guys – it’s like one big family and I love it,” continued Cerrone.

Should all go well this Wednesday in Las Vegas at the WEC, Donald would like to continue to work towards taking yet another step up towards his ultimate goal, the UFC.

“Greg contacted the UFC and they offered me a fight, but we decided that I wasn’t ready as a fighter yet for that,” explained Cerrone. “I’m a big head-case [laughs], so, all the elements have to be right, or I don’t perform right.”

Donald further commented, “So, for me to step into this smaller show, get my feet wet, get used to the cameras and all that, find out what it’s all about before I step into the big show is the right road to go. But, the UFC is definitely where I want to be.”

With the mass of talented Colorado fighters already in the big time mix, Cerrone looks to add another name to that group of athletes – his own – and in the process start his own legacy that hopefully leads to UFC gold.

“I just want to thank Tapout, for all the opportunity they’ve given me; and I’d like to thank Greg Jackson and all the guys who’ll be watching at home,” concluded Donald.

“Wednesday, September 5th, come check it out in Vegas, there’s definitely going to be some fireworks; if not, then definitely check it out on TV.”