A Hall of Fame is a tricky bit of business. If you’re too exclusive, the tiny bust of George St-Pierre gets lonely in the corner of some dusty convention center, a sculpture of Royce Gracie waving sadly from across the room. If you’re too liberal with the inductions you get, well, “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone.
Look, I’m not here to rain on any parades or disrespect fighters who sacrificed their mental and physical well being so I could have a few laughs on a Saturday night. The goal of the UFC Hall of Fame is to celebrate a sport and its history, something MMA does far too little of. Its creator, Ant Evans, is good people, someone who truly cares about the fighters and visionaries who created this wacky, beautiful, awful sport. For the most part, they’ve done a really good job highlighting the men and woman (only one in the Hall y’all) who kept this little Petri dish experiment alive long enough to allow Lorenzo Fertitta to buy a mega-yacht.
When you go to a big boxing bout, the legends line the crowd. When I’d cover boxing for Bleacher Report, you’d often see Thomas Hearns, Roy Jones, Pernell Whitaker, Julio Cesar Chavez and so many others in the crowd, a major fight one more opportunity to bask in old glories and soak up some attention from a crowd that wasn’t quick to forget.
MMA has the opposite vibe, mostly because UFC President Dana White is engaged in a blood feud with basically everyone who has ever put on a pair of gloves. It’s a sport with no history, the fandom changing out so often that fighters who were once standard bearers can walk through an arena unrecognized and all but unknown. Boxing reveres its elders. MMA proclaims each new champion to be the best of all time, all previous kingpins stuffed in a box marked ‘overrated’ and ‘exposed.’
It’s a sad state of affairs, one that’s led to this—the idea of Donald Cerrone as a legend and pioneer of the gonzo concept of mixing martial arts.
Let’s get this out of the way up front. Cerrone was a heck of a fighter. If you needed someone to fill the middle of a pay-per-view card or scrap with a fringe top ten opponent, this was your guy. Nobody styled on an over-matched foe better. You likely didn’t buy a fight card because of Cerrone (he was rarely a main eventer) but if you saw his name attached to a bout you’d be like “fuck yeah, at least we’re guaranteed something exciting tonight.”
And that’s no small thing, that feeling fluttering around in your stomach, that knowledge that someone’s face was fixing to explode or their liver quiver. For all our vain attempts to intellectualize the primal, we’re all here to satiate a bloodlust that isn’t polite to discuss. Cowboy Cerrone did that…
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