Donald Cerrone (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Donald Cerrone’s Future: Will the Cowboy Ride To Bellator?

Moving is quite possibly one of the worst things most people will endure in their lives. It doesn’t matter if it’s to the building next door, down the street, or across the country. There’s the stress of finding a new place to live, whether or not to hire movers, and just plain realizing that you have too much crap. It’s a stressful time until the move is complete and the house is fully unpacked, even if that takes five or six months.

For fighters in the MMA world, a move from one organization to another could create the same stress, even if it could also garner a bigger opportunity or lead to a fatter wallet. The latter could be a possibility for the “Cowboy” known as Donald Cerrone.

This past weekend at UFC 202, Cerrone decimated fellow welterweight Rick Story and moved to 3-0 in his new weight class after spending the earlier part of his career at lightweight. What fans didn’t know until after the dust had settled was that this fight was the last on Cerrone’s contract. He is now a free agent. Given Cerrone’s status and standing in the UFC, it seemed only a matter of time before another organization would try to scoop him up. But which organization could it be? Bellator, perhaps?


It has recently come to light that Bellator has been rumored to offer Cerrone a contract that would pay him $350,000 a fight, win or lose.

Take a moment to let that sink in. Just to put it in perspective, here are Cerrone’s winnings since his UFC debut:

Event Outcome Disclosed Pay*
UFC 126 Win (vs. Paul Kelly) $36,000
UFC 131 Win (vs. Vagner Rocha) $40,000
UFC Live: Hardy vs. Lytle Win (vs. Charles Oliveira) $44,000
UFC 137 Win (vs. Dennis Siver) $30,000
UFC 141 Loss (vs. Nate Diaz) $60,000
UFC on Fuel TV: Korean Zombie vs. Poirier Win (vs. Jeremy Stephens) $41,000
UFC 150 Win (vs. Melvin Guillard) $66,000
UFC on Fox: Johnson vs. Dodson Loss (vs. Anthony Pettis) $41,000
UFC 160 Win (vs. K.J. Noons) $82,000
UFC Fight Night: Condit vs. Kampmann 2 Loss (vs. Rafael dos Anjos) $48,000
UFC 167 Win (vs. Evan Dunham) $96,000
UFC on Fox: Henderson vs. Thomson Win (vs. Adriano Martins) $106,000
UFC on Fox: Werdum vs. Browne Win (vs. Edson Barboza) $114,000
UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs. Miller Win (vs. Jim Miller) $120,000
UFC 178 Win (vs. Eddie Alvarez) $126,000
UFC 182 Win (vs. Myles Jury) $140,000
UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Siver Win (vs. Benson Henderson) $146,000
UFC 187 Win (vs. John Makdessi) $152,000
UFC on Fox: Dos Anjos vs. Cerrone Loss (vs. Rafael dos Anjos) $79,000
UFC Fight Night: Cowboy vs. Oliveira Win (vs. Alex Oliveira) $158,000
UFC Fight Night: MacDonald vs. Thompson Win (vs. Patrick Cote) $164,000
UFC 202 Win (vs. Rick Story) $170,000
*disclosed pay does not include bonuses or sponsor pay

That makes for $2,072,000 disclosed fight-purse winnings after 22 fights. If Bellator’s offer is really $350,000 a fight, then Cerrone would only have to fight six times to make the same amount of money. However, take into consideration that the UFC gives out post-fight bonuses and Bellator does not. Cerrone is the recipient of 13 bonuses over the course of his 22 Octagon appearances.

This is quite the purse for a fighter in any organization, let alone Bellator. It seems like another bold move from the UFC rival after acquiring former WEC and UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson earlier this year.

Unfortunately, Henderson was unsuccessful in his Bellator debut against current welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov in April. Now, it appears that Bellator has added another free agent to challenge Koreshkov, this time luring Rory MacDonald away from the UFC.

In a sport where fighter pay is one of the most controversial and hot topics, it makes one wonder if fighters like Cerrone will start going after big-money contracts, such as the one that Bellator has rumored to have offered him. Maybe this will cause the UFC to dig a bit deeper into its own pockets to keep Cerrone around and not have another MacDonald situation on its hands.

The move to Bellator seems to not be the smartest career choice for Cerrone, given his current success at welterweight and the notoriety that he carries within the UFC organization. He could easily end up as a UFC champion if he is given the fight he asked for against Eddie Alvarez, the man currently holding the UFC lightweight title.

Henderson left to go to Bellator with a 3-2 record in his last five fights, including a loss to Cerrone. He left the organization on a two-fight winning streak, too, which is why it was so shocking to see him depart. MacDonald is headed to Bellator after also going 3-2 in his last five bouts, but he is coming off a pair of losses. MacDonald’s most memorable bout came in one of those losses when he was unsuccessful in his attempt to capture the welterweight title from Robbie Lawler.

Now, look at Cerrone. He is 11-1 in his last 12 bouts. His only loss came to former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. In fact, the former lightweight champion accounts for Cerrone’s two most recent losses. Cerrone is not just another fighter with a mediocre run over his last five fights.

Cerrone isn’t going anywhere. His rise to fame came in the WEC. He transitioned to the UFC with flying colors. In fact, he has only lost four times out of 22 appearances inside the Octagon. He has been quite successful at this new weight class. Who knows where his future lies, but if Cerrone is the fighter that he really says he is, he will stay in the UFC and fight the toughest competition that is available to him. The “Cowboy” isn’t just about the money. He loves to fight. This is his chance to prove it.