VANCOUVER – Outside of the octagon, UFC fighters Justin (The Highlight) Gaethje and Donald (Cowboy) Cerrone consider each other buddies.
That's not the case on Saturday, however, when the lightweights headline a televised card at Rogers Arena.
"Hey my enemy right now," Gaethje told reporters this week. "Friend, foe, it does not matter."
Asked how he prepares to take on a friend, Cerrone (I would not try to knock him out like that.) 36-12-0 with one no contest) what blunt.
"Is the question you're asking for 'When it's time to deliver the final blow, do I have the good to do it?' Yes, I do, "said Cerrone, a thick wad of chewing tobacco wedged under his lower lip.
Gaethje goes into the bout with a 20-2 record. In March, Edson Barboza knocked out just two-and-a-half minutes into the first round.
But the 30-year-old nearly missed the battle in Vancouver due to an eye infection. He has Ray-Ban sunglasses as he speaks on Wednesday, hoping the shades would help with some lingering sensitivity.
of the year.
Cerrone's last fight came in June, when he lost to Tony Ferguson on a technical knockout after a doctor's stoppage in the second round.
Cerrone is one of UFC's most accomplished fighters, currently ranked fourth among lightweight contenders. He holds records for most wins (23), finishes (16) and post-fight bonuses (18).
5-ranked Gaethje had words of admiration for the fighter.
"I can not diminish what he's done or who he is," he said. "I'm excited for the challenge."
The fighters first met back in 2012 when Cerrone brought Gaethje to help him prepare to fight Melvin Guillard.
"I was not a fighter then. I was a wrestler," said Gaethje, who was named to NCAA Division I all-American when he wrestled at the University of Northern Colorado in 2010. [19659002CerronegotthebestofGaethje[droppinghimwithanuppercutwhilesparring]
Cerrone said he had not been able to do it.
"Training's totally different than fighting, "he said. "That's so many years ago and (Gaethje) is a totally different guy now."
Gaethje is not letting the training mishap linger as he heads into Saturday's fight.
"It happened. It does not bother me one bit, "he said.
With 17 knockout wins to his name, Gaethje already knows how he wants his fight with Cerrone to end.
"I win or lose in one way and that's either putting them to sleep or putting them on the line and going to sleep," he said.
"If (the fight) goes past eight, nine minutes, then we're
Saturday sees mark the fifth time UFC holds an event in Vancouver.
Glover Teixeira (29-7) and Nikita Krylov (26-6) squaring off, and BC-based bantamweight Cole Smith (7-0) taking on American Miles Johns.
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