It’s no secret Donald Cerrone is a risk taker, but even ‘Cowboy’ had to admit his most recent roll of the dice nearly ended in the worst way imaginable.
It happened when Cerrone and a friend went cave diving in Cozumel, Mexico, and a mistake by Cerrone’s diving partner — whom Cerrone’s wife had felt uneasy about prior to the trip — nearly cost both men their lives.
During their dive, as Cerrone told Joe Rogan on the Joe Rogan Experience, Cerrone’s partner began exploring by himself, only to panic and get tangled in a line they’d brought to help aid their underwater exploration. While the unspoken etiquette of cave diving is to prioritise your own safety, Cerrone went to help his friend only to be drawn into the situation himself.
Due to the excessive movement, the cave floor’s dirt was kicked up into the water, meaning Cerrone was left blinded — causing Cowboy himself to panic.
“As soon as I go into the silt, I fucking lose everything,” Cerrone said to Rogan (as transcribed by MMAFighting). “Lose my way, where I am, my up, my down, I don’t know where I am. I’m fucking panicking now. I’m panicking! Fucking freaking out more than I’ve ever, breathing hard, bang, I hit my head on the fucking ceiling and I just close my eyes and I’m like, ‘Goddammit calm the fuck down, calm the fuck down, calm the fuck down, breathe.’ I can’t even see my hands in front of me.”
Underwater and in the dark, Cerrone became disorientated and was unable to figure out which way he’d been and which way he needed to go to get out. As such, the UFC star was forced to cling to the cave wall and pull himself along in the hopes of finding any landmark he could recognise. The entire time, he said, he was internally freaking out.
“You’re swimming against the current, so you’re going the wrong way,” Cerrone said. “I somehow worked that into my fucking panicked mind. ‘We’re swimming into the current, we’re swimming into the current, we’re going the wrong way.’ So I fucking turn and swim back, I’m back on the fucking main line again. I find the main line just out into the clear, main line. ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck!’ I start hyperventilating and panicking and I’m thinking, ‘You fucking piece of shit, this is how people die, what the fuck are you…?’ And I’m keeping in mind kissing my wife and kissing my kid and saying, ‘I’m coming home. I’m coming home.’
“So I do it again, fucking venture into the fucking great unknown, fucking abyss, total blackout. Another panic, another panic, fucking freaked out, can’t find my way, hitting my head, kicking, losing air by the fucking second. Because now I’m breathing hard and I’m breathing fucking irrational and I’m sucking my tanks dry. Mind you, there’s no answer to this after I breathe my last breath.”
Today I can honestly say I’m Happy to be alive. We had catastrophic worst case scenario on our dive. Total silt out , lost the cave line and lost my buddy couldn’t see my own hands was the most scariest moment to this day in my life. I remember kissing Danger and Lindsay and saying I’ll see y’all soon, don’t worry daddy’s coming home!!!! Told the grim reaper “ Not today Mother Fucker “ I’m figuring this the fuck out and coming home !!
Naturally, as time began to tick away, Cerrone said he begun thinking he’d likely die under the water — a fear of his. Combine that with the pre-trip warning given by his wife, Cerrone remembered he’d brought a notepad, and thoughts turned to a goodbye letter.
“When I run out of air, I’m now thinking in my mind, how am I going to die?” Cerrone said. “Tell my wife, tell my kid I’m coming home and now I’ve got to fucking realize how am I going to die? I have a notepad that you carry in your pocket to draw and write on, I’m thinking, ‘What are you going to say? What’s your letter going to be? You’re writing a fucking death letter? You’re awake. You’re a fighter. We figure this out. We don’t fucking find a way to quit, you fucking bitch.’
“These are the conversations I’m having with myself while I’m in fucking complete panic mode and complete darkness, thinking that this is how people die. What the fuck are you doing? You’re going to write a letter to you’re fucking kid and tell her how you fucked up, ‘I’m sorry, daddy’s not coming home?’”
Eventually, Cerrone managed to find a crack in the cave wall that let him to the outside world, where he was met by his diving partner. The pair agreed they’d never dive together again, and Cerrone escaped a harrowing experience mostly unharmed.
That’s not to say he doesn’t appreciate how close things got.
“The inner me, the fighter: ‘You figure it the fuck out,’” Cerrone said. “But was I going to write a letter? I was fucking damn close to writing a letter.”