Gone was the scowl across Cerrone’s face after referee Jerin Valel stopped Gaethje from bludgeoning him on his knee. It was a weird ending to an otherwise exciting fight.
But Cerrone’s mindset was win some, lose some.
“I’m not making any excuses,” Cerrone told reporters, including MMA Junkie, following his loss to Gaethje in the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 16, which took place Saturday at Rogers Center. “The ref clearly thought I couldn’t continue.
“That’s the way this game is. Sometimes, you get the ref that lets you get pounded in. Sometimes, the one that won’t. I got the one that wouldn’t. So maybe it’s better for the longevity for me and my boy here. Maybe he didn’t beat me retarded, so that’s good.”
A second straight loss didn’t shake Cerrone’s love for the sport, or his title prospects after another setback. In fact, he doubled down on his plans to continue toward 50 wins.
“Fifty is the number I want, so I’ve got new for my coaches and corners: There’s going to be a lot more ups and downs and sideways-es,” Cerrone said. “When you’re winning, everyone wants to know, ‘What are you doing so special that you win?’ And then when you lose, everyone’s like, ‘What didn’t you do?’ Nothing, man. I trained hard. I trained my ass off. It just didn’t work out.”
Gaethje (21-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) floored Cerrone (38-13 MMA, 23-10 UFC) with a right hand and then finished him off with a series of follow-up punches. Prior to the fight, Cerrone pined for a spot on a December card that would bring his 2019 total to five bouts.
Saturday’s TKO likely jeopardized that goal, but Cerrone was still optimistic.
“Tomorrow, I’m going to get on the airplane and call Dana and say, ‘What’s next,’” Cerrone said. “And they’re gonna say, ‘You got knocked out, I think you have a medical suspension.’ (And I’ll say), ‘Yeah, but after that, what can we do?’
“I would love to fight next weekend, but I don’t know how long of a suspension I got. I don’t know what getting your ass knocked out in 30 seconds looks like on paper, but I think it’s pretty long.”
Whether it’s 60 or 90 days, Cerrone isn’t going to make big promises to change like other fighters. He’s just going to dust himself off and keep going. And though the UFC lightweight title might be further away after Saturday night, he’s not letting anyone see him down.
That is, unless the prospect of a third loss is broached.
“Three in a row? Holy moly,” Cerrone told MMA Junkie. “You can’t talk like that in front of my boy.
“Yeah, next fight, hopefully I don’t go three in a row again. That really hurts the bank account. At the rate I spend my money, I need those wins just to sustain life, guys.
“I’m going to get the belt. It’s going to happen. I guess I just slid down the rung a little bit, but I’m going to come back, I’m going to train hard, and I’m going to get it. It’s the last thing I’ve got to do with my legacy.”
Already, Cerrone will be remembered as of the most talented, game and active fighters to have competed in the UFC. He’s taken on more top-tier fighters than almost anyone in the industry-leading promotion, and he continues to make incredible comebacks well into his thirties.
Saturday’s bout wasn’t one of those, but Cerrone said he won’t stop until he caps his career with the ultimate legacy-builder. And if he doesn’t?
“I tried,” he said. “It’s something I can teach my boy. I gave it hell.”