"I saw a guy that looked like he didn't want to be there for some reason"
'Ah, I just don't see a guy that wants to fight right now'.
Ahead of his main event fight against Conor McGregor at UFC 246, Donald Cerrone looked to have had his fill of questions about his opponent's lightning fast starts.
Near the end of the pre-fight press conference, Cerrone picked up his microphone and laid out what his game-plan was heading into the headliner. He declared:
"I’m just going to go in, have fun and do what I love. He’s going to try to come hard early because they think I’m a slow starter. Let’s go motherf*****, I love it, let’s blow the roof off this place.
"Let’s go five rounds, non-stop. Can he keep the pace? I can. I was born with great cardio, I’m in great shape."
Cerrone may well have been born with great cardio but his MMA career has been pock-marked by slow starts. Five of his 13 losses, heading to the McGregor fight, had come in the first round, with notable stoppages delivered by Anthony Pettis, Rafael Dos Anjos and Justin Gaethje.
McGregor was always going to thunder out of the blocks so all eyes were on Cerrone and how he could negotiate the initial barrage. For UFC bantamweight Brian Kelleher, who fought in the prelims at UFC 246, he is not sure Cerrone was ever going to get past the first round.
In a wide-ranging interview with José Youngs on The A Side, Kelleher spoke about Donald Cerrone's demeanour in the locker room before his fight against McGregor. He said:
"Obviously the UFC want Conor to win, they want to set up big fights, and they gave him a good match-up to do so. Conor's a fast starter. Cowboy, not so much. That's one thing I knew, going in.
"It's interesting because I was in Cowboy's and watching him warm up... I like to read energies so I was like, 'Ah, I just don't see a guy that wants to fight right now'.
"Cowboy has talked about this [in the past] in the locker room. Sometimes he's on and sometimes he's like, 'What am I doing?'
"I saw a guy that kinda looked like he didn't want to be there for some reason. I don't know if that's true, but that's what I felt. And he lost quick."
Cerrone did lose quick. Within 40 seconds of the fight starting he has absorbed 19 significant strikes from McGregor and was in trouble, on the mat, when referee Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight and call it in favour of 'The Notorious'.
Cerrone is facing a potential 180 days before his next fight after the medical suspensions for UFC 246 were confirmed. As for McGregor, Kelleher feels the UFC should sign him up to face Jorge Masvidal "ASAP".
Masvidal has a five-second KO win on his record so there could be early fireworks if he does sign up to fight the Dubliner later this year.