by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
September 5, 2007 was supposed to be the next big step in the career of Colorado lightweight fighter “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone.

After years of successfully earning an undefeated record in smaller shows, he was getting his shot at a nationally televised MMA event at WEC 30 against Kenneth Alexander.

In finally getting his shot at the big time, Cerrone didn’t fail to impress, as he defeated Alexander in just under a minute. What he did fail however was his post-fight drug test.

Suddenly Cerrone’s day in the sun had turned cloudy, as he tested positive for Hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic used in aiding the weight cutting process, eventually leading to an overturning of his win to a no contest, receiving a fine and an eight-month suspension for his actions.

Nine months later, suspension served and fine paid, Cerrone returned to World Extreme Cagefighting last weekend in Sacramento intent on proving that his performance was all him and not a result of banned substances as he took on local California product Danny Castillo.

In a fight reminiscent of his previous performances, Cerrone once again submitted his opponent, arm barring Castillo in less than two minutes, proving that indeed he is truly a new force to be reckoned with in the WEC lightweight division.

“I feel real good about the fight,” said Cerrone of his return. “I trained three months for it, and I was ready to go.

“I was a little upset they changed my opponent, but that happens in the game. My game plan didn’t change too incredibly much because Danny is a wrestler, like (my originally scheduled opponent Rich Crunkilton) is a wrestler. I stuck to the same game plan really; stand until they take me down.”

Even though he is happy with his performance, Cerrone still finds fault in the things he could improve upon.

“I gave up the takedowns real easy,” he admitted. “I should have tried to sprawl a little bit more, but that’s something I’m going to work on.

“In the end everything worked out for me.”

After a nine-month layoff, it would be understandable if Cerrone experienced some ring rust, but according to him, any tentativeness was quickly erased as he entered the Arco Arena.

“I thought there might be (some), but when I came out I think the crowd reaction kind of wore the rust out real quick,” he explained. “When everyone was booing it kind of got me fired up inside.

“Boo me, love me, hate me – I’m there – however you want to do it.”

Not only did the crowd reaction motivate Cerrone to perform, but he also felt he had something to prove after the outcome of his pervious WEC experience.

“I knew I had to go out there and just go,” he exclaimed.

“That’s the one thing I was worried about, was not being able to come out and perform the way I wanted to, and have them look at me and think I’m not the fighter they thought I was. I’m glad everything worked out.”

With previous digressions behind him, Cerrone anxiously looks forward to continuing to work his way up the WEC’s 155-pound ladder as soon as possible.

“I want to fight again, soon,” he stated. “August, September, it doesn’t matter; I’d like to fight as soon as I possibly can.

“Just being off for so long, I just want to get in there and go. Who I fight, I’m not really concerned with. I’m not saying I want to fight for the title next, but it’d be nice if I could this year – if I don’t, that’s okay too. I’m not in any hurry with my career.”

One fight that could provide an interesting test for Cerrone would be a possible match-up with ex-WEC champ “Razor” Rob McCullough, who won his fight in controversial fashion last weekend over the man Cerrone handled in his WEC debut, Kenneth Alexander.

“Absolutely, I will gladly take that fight,” enthusiastically replied Cerrone when questioned about facing off against McCullough.

Whenever he returns and against whatever opposition that faces him, he knows he’s been given a second chance to prove exactly who he is. He’s paid his dues and is eager to make up for lost time and plans to make the most of the future that lay before him.

“I want to thank Tapout for being there from when I was nothing until now,” concluded Cerrone. “I want to thank everybody for supporting me in this sport.

“To the fans, keep your eyes out for the Cowboy for the rest of this year – I’ll be coming.”