Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012 | 1:45 a.m.
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DENVER — As Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone rushed in to put the finishing touches on his first-round knockout victory at UFC 150, he shared two words with the nearly unconscious Melvin Guillard.
“Sorry, brother,” Cerrone told Guillard.
Apologizing to an opponent? Even if he used to train with said opponent, it’s peculiar behavior for Cerrone. “Cowboy” typically comes into his fights as spiteful as a “Batman” villain.
Something was different about Saturday night at the Pepsi Center for Cerrone. He stayed uncharacteristically pleasant from first walking to the octagon with a smile on his face to leaving the cage by thanking Guillard repeatedly.
He credited his demeanor to competing less than 70 miles from his hometown of Colorado Springs.
“I’ve fought here numerous times and this was the most energy I ever felt,” Cerrone said. “I wanted to stop and do the whole circle and just wait there for a minute. It was unbelievable.”
Although he knows every fight won’t feel as special, he hopes to bring a similar attitude to events from now on. Cerrone improved to 6-1 in the UFC, but the one loss came when he got emotional in a pre-fight war of words with Nate Diaz.
Cerrone’s next fight will likely test his ability to stay focused on the competition. He’ll face budding rival Anthony Pettis in a bout that should determine the next top contender in the lightweight division.
Cerrone has attacked Pettis verbally for the past month, claiming the former WEC veteran ducked him at UFC 150. Pettis, who’s coming off shoulder surgery, responded by cursing at and calling out Cerrone on Twitter.
“Cowboy” took a step back from the drama for the first time after defeating Guillard.
“I’ve got to control my emotions,” Cerrone said. “When I fight out of emotions, it doesn’t end up so well. I’m going to just stay away from all the crap talking.”
Cerrone toyed with disaster at UFC 150. Guillard, who used to train with Cerrone at Greg Jackson’s gym in Albuquerque, actually notched the first knockdown of the fight, planting Cerrone with a left hand in the opening seconds.
“Probably the worst I’ve ever been injured in a fight,” Cerrone said. “I just sucked it up and tried to keep going. That was all I could think.”
Guillard kept the pressure on, but Cerrone recovered quickly. Less than 30 seconds after nearly getting stopped, Cerrone was effectively countering Guillard.
“Cowboy” knocked out “the Young Assassin” with a head kick and a right hand at 1:16 into the bout.
“Frankly, I thought I just grazed the top of him,” Cerrone said. “I didn’t realize I connected as well as I did so I followed with that right hand. In training, I worked on that a lot.”
The win earned Cerrone his fifth and sixth post-fight UFC awards. The UFC cut him $120,000 worth of extra checks for Knockout of the Night and Fight of the Night.
“Good night for Cerrone,” UFC President Dana White joked. “We almost gave him Submission (of the Night) too.”
Cerrone has bought boats, cars and accessories for his ranch with past bonus checks. But he said this one would go straight to the IRS because he “owes a little bit of money” on taxes.
He got what he really wanted at UFC 150 anyway — a bout with Pettis. Facing Guillard to get it wasn’t ideal, but Cerrone made the most of the situation.
“There were a lot of things people were asking me about would it be hard to finish a teammate,” Cerrone explained. “And the answer I had was, ‘no.’ Until you’re there for that finishing blow and, yes, it’s very hard.”