Legal woes not distracting Cerrone

August, 26, 2013
8/26/13
6:25
AM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
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Donald Cerrone and K.J. NoonsAl Powers for ESPNBest foot forward: Donald Cerrone, left, hopes to bring his most complete form into Wednesday's fight with Rafael dos Anjos.

Backing away from a fight is not in Donald Cerrone’s DNA. Whether the fight is inside or outside of a cage, Cerrone is up to the task, giving everything he has and always expecting to walk away victorious.

Cerrone has a lightweight bout Wednesday night in Indianapolis against Rafael dos Anjos -- whose four-fight win streak has pushed his pro mark to 19-6 and earned him the No. 10-ranking among lightweights by UFC.com [he is unranked by ESPN.com]. With an improved striking game to sufficiently complement his submission skills, dos Anjos poses a stern test for any fighter at 155 pounds.

Everything these days seems to be working out just right for dos Anjos, even the timing of this fight with Cerrone, who will enter the bout with a legal matter hovering over his head. It would seem that if ever there was a time for Cerrone to be vulnerable, this would be it.

But things are not always quite what they seem. Cerrone is very aware of the third-degree assault charge -- stemming from an incident in June -- that he must face sometime after his UFC Fight Night 27 bout. He isn’t shying away from that situation and has cooperated fully with authorities, according to UFC officials.

The courtroom battle, however, is for a later day. Cerrone isn’t allowing his legal issue to interfere with the matter at hand: beating dos Anjos in order to strengthen his claim for a title shot. Nothing else matters to Cerrone at this time.

“I’m 100 percent devoted to this fight [with dos Anjos] and that’s it,” Cerrone told ESPN.com. “My mind is where it’s supposed to be, and the legal matter has nothing to do with it. I’m 100 percent ready, my camp was good, and I feel great.”

Cerrone is so determined not to allow anything or anyone to disrupt his focus that he refuses to discuss the legal case anymore. Besides, he doesn’t have any answers to give regarding it; his mind is set solely on ridding himself of dos Anjos.

My mind is where it's supposed to be, and the legal matter has nothing to do with it. I'm 100 percent ready, my camp was good and I feel great.

-- Donald Cerrone, on his mindset ahead of Wednesday's contest against Rafael dos Anjos

Interestingly, Cerrone doesn’t have much to say about dos Anjos either. Cerrone hasn’t paid much attention to his opponent since the fight was officially announced in June. Cerrone has spent the past two-plus months polishing his skills, preparing to manhandle whoever UFC planned to put in front of him. Dos Anjos just happens to be the guy.

“I don’t know much about the guy; I haven’t watched much video on him,” Cerrone said. “I know that he is aggressive and likes to come forward. I know that I’m 100 percent ready to throw down.”

Wednesday night’s fight will be the third this year for Cerrone. Staying active keeps Cerrone in rhythm and keeps dollar bills in his pocket -- “I like money, that’s why I fight so often. That’s the best answer I can give.” He fought five times in 2011, twice in 2012.

After stumbling out of the gate this year with a first-round knockout loss to Anthony Pettis, there is no room for error. If Cerrone, ranked seventh among lightweights by ESPN.com and sixth by UFC.com, is to make another serious run at the title, he must defeat dos Anjos.

Cerrone is seeking to win his second fight in a row. In his most recent bout, on May 25 at UFC 160, he defeated KJ Noons by unanimous decision. The victory improved Cerrone’s professional record to 20-5 with one no contest.

It was a win that served to further boost Cerrone’s confidence. He is convinced that a victory Wednesday night puts him solidly in the title conversations. And he strongly believes there is no one capable of preventing him from becoming UFC champion.

“This is the year that I feel I’m getting the belt. I don’t know who is in line, whether it’s TJ Grant or Josh Thomson. I don’t know who’s sitting in the slot,” Cerrone said. “But hopefully a win over dos Anjos will put me in line with them, and then a win over them will get me a title shot. That’s the overall game plan.”

When Cerrone is done taking care of dos Anjos, which he strongly expects to do, he will turn his attention to fighting that third-degree assault allegation. Cerrone is confident he also will leave that fight victorious.

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