Donald Cerrone can still feel the agony that was attached to his first career loss by strikes. At UFC 249, he gets the chance to numb that pain.

Cerrone’s first knockout loss in MMA competition came courtesy of a devastating Anthony Pettis body kick less than three minutes into their bout at UFC on FOX 6 in January 2013. It was a key matchup for the lightweight division at the time, and now more than seven years later, the pair run it back at UFC 249.

Much has changed since the initial clash. There’s been many highs and lows for Cerrone (36-14 MMA, 23-11 UFC) and Pettis (22-10 MMA, 9-9 UFC) over the years, and they’ll enter the rematch – contested at welterweight – on losing skids. For “Cowboy,” the opportunity to exact revenge is motivating.

“He kicked my liver out of my body (in our first fight),” Cerrone told MMA Junkie. “It sucked. Of course you always want to get a loss back, but it’s just stylistically a good matchup. It’s a good fight with good fun. It’s a fight the people want to see.”

UFC 249 takes place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. Cerrone vs. Pettis headlines the prelims, which air on ESPN and ESPN+, prior to the pay-per-view main card.

The event is the UFC’s first since the coronavirus pandemic caused the promotion to suspend all events in early April. The card has been ever-changing from its original April 18 version, and Cerrone’s fight was one of the later adds. Unsurprisingly, though, he jumped on the offer.

“The UFC talked about the ‘Fight Island’ and I put out a post like, ‘Man, I’ll fight on ‘Fight Island,’” Cerrone said. “They asked if I was serious. I said yeah. Then they asked if I could fight in the U.S. and I said yes. It didn’t take much convincing to get me to fight. They called and that was that.”

Ahead of the first fight there was great tension between Cerrone and Pettis. This time, though, it’s much different. The pair has formed a bond in recent years, Cerrone said, by both training together and spending personal time.

Cerrone described Pettis as “100 percent my friend” and said they “talk all the time,” but he will gladly set the relationship aside for up to 15 minutes in favor of business.

It’s an important fight for Cerrone, who enters the event on a three-fight losing skid, which is tied for the longest of his career. His defeats came to elite names in Conor McGregor, Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson, but that doesn’t make them sting any less.

Cerrone wants to get back on track, and he thinks the circumstances make UFC 249 an environment where he can thrive.

“I’m going out there looking for a win,” Cerrone said. “Three losses is the worst thing I’ve ever done. It’s such a crazy and wild sport, the ups and the downs. This is my wheelhouse. Short-notice fights. I want to win. Go out and there and do what I do. I’m excited for this fight and for this matchup.”