Count Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone among the biggest winners from this past weekend’s UFC Brooklyn event.
Not merely for the fact he made a statement in his return to the lightweight division, humbling upstart Alex Hernandez with a thoroughly-impressive second-round technical knockout victory, but more because his performance potentially earned him a life-altering payday against Conor McGregor.
“I want top-five [opponents]. I even want Conor if he’ll agree to it,” Cerrone said in his post-fight interview. “Conor would be awesome. Any top-five [contender]. I’m coming for the belt, man. Cowboy’s back. I’m on a roll, baby, here I come.”
Cerrone, after eating a couple hard shots early, picked Hernandez apart with a dazzling display of strikes and landed 81 significant strikes in a fight that lasted 8:43.
“The old man’s still got it,” said Cerrone, who turns 36 in late March.
It was his first fight in the 155-pound weight class since losing to former champion Rafael dos Anjos more than three years ago. Cerrone went 6-4 during his three-year stint at welterweight.
Cerrone’s post-fight comments — but more importantly his in-cage performance — garnered the attention of the biggest star in mixed martial arts.
Cerrone earned a $50,000 bonus for his bout being dubbed Fight of the Night, plus an additional $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus for the finish. That extra dough would pale in comparison to what he would likely make were he to sign on the dotted line for a bout with McGregor.
Cerrone told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto following the event that an ideal scenario would see him fight McGregor sometime in March or April at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. He did add that he is tempering his expectations and not getting ahead of himself because he’s aware McGregor is in a position to pick and choose his opponents.
It’s unclear when McGregor will be eligible to step back into the Octagon as he awaits a hearing with the Nevada State Athletic Commission for his role in October’s infamous UFC 229 post-fight melee.
UFC president Dana White seemed open to the idea of a McGregor-Cerrone matchup.
“Anything is possible,” White told reporters at Barclays Center. “If those guys want that and the fans want to see it, that’s what I do. … I like the fact that two of these guys that are complete dogs and fight anybody — willing to fight anybody — want to fight each other. That’s fun.”