‘Cowboy’ Cerrone Unleashes on Jackson-Winkeljohn Gym Following Split with Team

Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone erupted on Wednesday while explaining his split with his longtime coaches at the Jackson-Wink academy in New Mexico

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is no longer training at the famed Jackson-Winkeljohn Academy in New Mexico and he’s not happy about how his exit was facilitated.

The veteran welterweight and lightweight contender explained his side of the story when appearing on Joe Rogan’s podcast on Wednesday where he went into detail about a deteriorating program that eventually led to his claims that one coach in particular chose money over loyalty.

While the history of Cerrone’s issues with the gym stretch back further than this one story, he explained that his exit came after Mike Perry began training at the same facility before they were matched up for a fight at the UFC card coming up in November.

Cerrone makes it clear than none of what unfolded is Perry’s fault nor does he blame him for what transpired next.

According to Cerrone, he was planning a move back down to 155 pounds when the UFC matchmakers told him that Perry was asking for a fight against him at welterweight. Like usual, Cerrone accepted but then he wanted to have a conversation with his coaches about the dynamic at the gym now that two teammates would be fighting each other.

“Perry called me out, sure no problem but I went to talk to Greg [Jackson] and Wink [Mike Winkeljohn] and said ‘this guy’s brand new to the gym, he’s only been here one camp, a couple of months, I don’t think it’s OK for him to come in and call me out, that’s not right’. So if he is doing that, I don’t think we should allow him to train here for this fight. F–king Winkeljohn tells me ‘oh I thought you called him out’ and he’s just a s–t ass and lies to your face. To me, he was like sure no problem, I’ll clear it up and we won’t have any issues,” Cerrone explained.

“Then the next day he calls me on the phone and says ‘you know what, I thought about it and if we don’t have Perry then I don’t get paid and I need to get paid for this fight, cause you just pay Greg, we don’t make any money through the gym so we’re just going to go with him’. Then he basically tells me I’m no longer welcome in the gym.”

Cerrone says his relationship with the gym stretches back more than 10 years but he was always there under the tutelage of head coach Greg Jackson.

In recent years, Jackson’s influence has been felt less and less at the gym while Winkeljohn has taken over the majority of the day-to-day operations as well as monetizing the program.

From the first day he arrived there, Cerrone says he was only ever obligated to pay Jackson a fee and that’s exactly what he’s always done for every single fight he’s had from the WEC through his time in the UFC.

As far as the atmosphere at the gym, Cerrone claims what was once a proud program filled with professionals has now been transformed into a gym where anybody can put down a little bit of cash and then step onto the mats with a group of world champions.

“To see where the gym was to where the gym is now, it’s like heartbreaking to me to be honest,” Cerrone said. “You want to talk about loyalty, which is the biggest thing in this conversation that we’re having right now about how they picked someone over me through being loyal, I stuck by Greg even when the gym started going down. When Winkeljohn merged over, all the big pros left, it turned into a puppy mill.

“Back when Greg had it and it was it’s own school, you couldn’t turn up to a pro class — like some guy could just come here and knock on your door and the next thing you know he has shin pads on and he’s sparring. At the new gym, bums come in off the street, I swear to God, and will come in and put stuff on and fight. That’s a true story. Random bums off the street. That would never happen back in the day. You pay $150, you can get on the mats and spar with Holly Holm. That’s what it’s come to down there.”

Cerrone made it clear that his anger isn’t as much towards Jackson but rather at Winkeljohn over the changes made to the gym over the past few years. Cerrone also took shots at wrestling coach Chad Smith, who he claimed was fired from coaching job in college over selling steroids to the athletes on the team.

“That’s our wrestling coach,” Cerrone said about Smith. “He’s terrible. He’s f–king god awful terrible. He watches videos on YouTube and tries to teach people things that don’t even f–king work.”

Part of the reason Cerrone ended up building his own facility — dubbed the BMF Ranch — was because he didn’t want to train with Winkeljohn and Jackson just wasn’t around as much as the early part of his career.

Combined with the situation that unraveled when Perry started training at the gym and Cerrone says he’s no longer biting his tongue when it comes to his feelings about Winkeljohn.

“Winkeljohn called me on the phone and didn’t even have the f–king balls or the backbone to say it to my f–king face when I was right there with him,” Cerrone said. “Called me on the phone and said ‘oh we’re actually going to go with Perry, he pays money’ and again it comes back to the money. I only pay Greg.

“For my entire career I’ve been there because I don’t like Winkeljohn’s style. I don’t like the way he holds mitts, I don’t like the way he trains people.”

The end result is Cerrone planning a move back to his native Colorado to prepare for his upcoming fight in November with no plans to ever return to the gym he’s called home for the past 11 years.

“He just drove that place into the ground,” Cerrone said about Winkeljohn. “Literally turned it into a puppy mill. It’s only about making money.”

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Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the industry since 2003 with bylines on FOX Sports, CNN, Bleacher Report and numerous other outlets.
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