Donald Cerrone has a fight tonight with rising star Ben Henderson, but you'd never know it if you spent 15 minutes with the WEC standout. Cerrone, more than eight months after his controversial title fight for the WEC Lightweight Championship, still has champion Jamie Varner on his mind.
"I just keep going and going trying to line that fight up," Cerrone said. "That's the one that gets me up in the morning. I know I've got my takedown defense where I want it to be now and I can knock that little bastard out."
It's not that Cerrone is completely dismissing Henderson. The two know each other from their time in Colorado, and he's willing to concede that the former NAIA wrestling champion is a solid opponent and a good guy. "I grew up with Ben," Cerrone said. "He's a real dark horse, an good man and an awesome fighter." He doesn't mean to let Varner overshadow this fight. It's just that he hates him that much.
"As a fighter, he's awesome," Cerrone said. "But as a person he's a punk bitch. That's really what it is. I've got nothing good to say about him."
The vitriol between the two men has expanded from the cage and threatened to explode into real life violence. Cerrone and his friend Leonard Garcia allegedly confronted Varner in the locker room at UFC 100. Cerrone, still upset that Varner canceled a title rematch tentatively scheduled for this very show, did everything he could to start a fight-short of physical violence.
"We were at UFC 100 in a little back area," Cerrone said. "It was me, Leonard Garcia and Varner. I said things to him you wouldn't normally say to another person. And that as a man you would never let someone say. I was kind of out of line to be honest with you. I'm kind of glad it didn't happen."
Cerrone, a natural salesman who wears a cowboy hat to stand out from the crowd of similar looking unknown fighters, may be exaggerating his feud with Varner. The champion says that if he had a heated confrontation with Cerrone, it's news to him.
"I've never been in a room alone with those guys," Varner said. "I would remember it, because something bad would've happened. But it never happened. I'm not sure if they made it up, but it never happened."
Whether the incident happened or not, the sentiment, at least, is very real. Cerrone expects a win over Henderson to lead to another shot at Varner. When the fight finally happens, it will be the hottest feud to ever hit the usually laid back WEC.
"We're trying to gas it up a little bit," Cerrone said. "But it's real man. I just don't like that dude at all. That's really what it is."
Of course it's all moot if Henderson scores the upset and takes Cerrone's spot in a potential title fight with Varner. And after a cocky War Machine fell to an opponent he considered beneath his notice Thursday at the Tachi Palace Fights, it more clear than ever that anything can happen in the world of MMA.
"I expect to put on my fight and execute my game plan. Donald better be completely ready, because I know I am," Henderson told us this week. "...I'll be the underdog against Donald, and beating him will be one of the best nights of my life."
WEC 43 airs tonight on Versus at 10 PM EST.