VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Donald Cerrone has made a name for himself with his ferocious Muay Thai skills, an element that he is sure to bring into his record-breaking 33rd UFC bout this Saturday.
However, should “Cowboy” ever get a shot at UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, it’s his often overlooked submission game that might be put on display. At the open workouts Wednesday ahead of his main event lightweight fight with Justin Gaethje this weekend at UFC Vancouver at Rogers Arena, Cerrone was asked about what potential strategy he would bring into a matchup with “The Eagle.”
Nurmagomedov improved to 28-0 this past weekend at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi, submitting interim champion Dustin Poirier in the third round to cap off another dominant performance. Though Cerrone has yet to watch the footage himself, he speculated that battling Nurmagomedov on the ground could be the secret to beating him.
That’s not an outlandish proposition given that 17 of Cerrone’s 36 wins have come by way of submission.
“I didn’t see the fight [with Poirier]. I don’t know, I was on the lake,” Cerrone said. “I figured [Khabib won], I heard the news. But I think people need to welcome Khabib to the ground. I’d let him. Come on in, let’s go.”
Cerrone and Nurmagomedov have actually been scheduled to fight on two previous occasions, in 2014 and 2015, with the bookings being spoiled by Nurmagomedov injuries. Those missed opportunities actually led to Cerrone carving out his own path to a UFC title shot as he went on to beat Nurmagomedov’s replacements on both occasions, outpointing Eddie Alvarez at UFC 178 and three fights later knocking out John Makdessi at UFC 187. Cerrone would then lose a UFC championship bout to Rafael dos Anjos.
Referring to his past preparations for Nurmagomedov, Cerrone again mentioned the possibility of using his own grappling to take the fight to a champion known for his unstoppable takedowns.
“How does Khabib do on his back?” Cerrone asked. “What if I take Khabib down? Who knows? S*it.”
Though Cerrone has always had the attitude of taking on whatever name the UFC sends this way, he agreed that a win against Gaethje would keep him in the thick of the lightweight title picture and that it’s a trophy he would still like to add to his mantle someday.
However, as has become par for the course for “Cowboy,” he didn’t rule out taking another fight before the end of the year regardless of what is in store next for Nurmagomedov.
“Back in the saddle again. After I beat Gaethje, there’s nobody else, that’s it, no one in front of me,” Cerrone said. “I do want to fight in December though, so I’ll probably have to take a 155 break, go to 170 and we’ll see.”