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Donald Cerrone tells the tale of almost dying while cave diving

Cerrone was on the Joe Rogan Experience explaining just how close to death he was during a dive gone wrong.

UFC 202: Story v Cerrone Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images

If you keep up with Donald Cerrone’s social media accounts, you know he’s often out in the world doing some crazy extreme sports. Follow his feeds long enough, and you’ll catch him sharing a near death experience, like the time he almost died rock climbing. Or more recently: the time he almost died cave diving.

Just earlier in August, Cerrone shared some photos of a dive gone wrong, saying he was lucky to escape the situation alive. He went into detail on everything that happened on the Joe Rogan Experience.

”I got my certification in high school and I am a super cave diver, man,” Cerrone said. “I love it, I love diving, I love ship diving. So we were in Cozumel and one of my old - you could almost call him my instructor, he’s taught me a lot about what I know about diving today. We dove three or four days with some buddies that were down in Cozumel, went through some ships, went through some coral reefs, just playing around. We go into a serious dive, he’s getting a little bit older. His mind is still very sharp but his motor skills don’t keep up much any more. And in cave diving, it’s very necessary that you need [those].”

Cerrone’s wife wasn’t super comfortable with the decision to cave dive with this particular buddy, but they went regardless. Things went sideways pretty quick.

”So we make the jump, tie off, put these direction arrows down, they’re called cookies, pointing out of the cave so if something happens, you come out. When you make a jump, you take your light and you wrap it around your neck and then you have two hands to work on the line. The guy I was with didn’t follow some of our rules and in cave diving it’s kind of an unwritten fact that you only worry about you coming home, I’m staying alive. So Joe, if you and I are cave diving and something were to happen, I’m not going in there to get you. No reason for two of us to die if only one of us is in there to die.”

”So he tries to tie off, his buoyancy makes him hit the roof of the cave. He kicks his feet and spins and all of a sudden this line that’s supposed to be tied off, which is our f**king lifeline, is now wrapped around him. So I swim over to him and I try to help him unhook this line, and he goes into panic. And panic kills everyone involved. Everybody involved dies with panic and that’s something I can’t express enough.”

”So he starts freaking out, hitting the roof, spinning, silt everywhere, and I just back out. Take about four or five big steps back. I grab a hold of the main line. Now it’s silting. When I say it’s silting, there’s all this sediment that sits at the bottom of these caves, and you’re in a little tiny room. So if you kick your fin hard, it kicks up dark dust, mud, sediment, silt. You can’t see anything. So I back out of the silt and I grab the line. I see him in there freaking and panicking and spinning and rolling around and getting all caught up in this line. And I’m like ‘FFFFUUUUU.’”

Now what’d I just tell you about the rule, someone coming home,” Cerrone said. “I broke the rule and I went in to get him. So I let go of the line and I go in to get him because his light is off now and I’m thinking he’s spun up in this line, his light’s off. Did he drop his regulator? Does he have air? Is he okay?”

”As soon as I go into the silt I lose everything. Where I am, my up, my down. I don’t know where I am, I’m panicking now. I’m freaking out more than anything ever. Bang, I hit my head on the ceiling and I just close my eyes and I’m like ‘Goddamn, Cowboy, calm the f**k down, calm the f**k down, calm the f**k down. Breathe.’”

”I took a compass readying of the direction of the front when we tied off for the first jump,” he continued. “So I know 126 degrees is the way out. But in a cave, they twist and they move and they’re up and they’re big and they’re deep and they’re low. There’s no rhyme or reason to how the water makes the cave. So it’s kind of a direction I can think of, the first thing that comes to my mind. So I swim that way and I hit a wall. I go down and I hit a wall. I’m in panic mode again and I just start swimming and kicking, I make my way out of the silt and I turn around and I’m back on the main line. I find the main line to the cave again which is 800 yards to the front door. I grab a hold of the main line and I reel it in.”

”Now the entire behind me, deeper into the cave, it’s free. No problem, silt free. I can see everything good. Where I need to go is silted out and blown, gone, completely washed out. I couldn’t see you sitting there, but I can see everything behind us. Can’t see you. I have the main line, but I don’t have the jump line to get the f**k out. I’m trying to remember landmarks but I can’t see anything. I’m like ‘F**k, there was a split up here.’ So I go back into the silt again and I’m feeling around and there’s a hole and I’m like ‘Is that the hole I want to go down? Where does that one go? Remember, remember.’”

This was the point where Cerrone started to realize there was a good possibility he was going to die down in this cave.

”Told my wife and my kid I’m coming home, now I’ve gotta realize how I’m going to die,” he said. “I’ve got a notepad that I carry in my pocket to draw and write on, I’m thinking ‘What are you going to say? What’s your letter going to be.’ Then ‘You’re writing a f**king death letter? You’re awake, you’re a fighter. We figure this out. You don’t find a way to quit!’ This is the conversation I’m having with myself while I’m in complete panic mode in complete darkness.”

”Cowboy” went so far as to figure out what he was going to do if he ran out of air.

”I’m not going to drown, so I’m gonna breath this buoyancy compensator that I just filled up with air, and I’m gonna breathe it til the oxygen level no longer happens and I’m going to pass out. That’s my, that’s what I’ve come to realize is how I’m going to die. I’m going to keep breathing this same air until I go away. And I think ‘You f**king piece of s**t, you’re giving up?’”

Fortunately, Cerrone managed to find his way out.

”I’m crawling on the ceiling and I remember when we came in there’s a huge crack that runs along the top,” he said. “I kill my lights and said ‘That crack’s gonna lead to the surface. That crack’s gonna give us something.’ So I start panicking again because I don’t know what to do, I’m sucking air and I’m hyperventalating and I’m crawling on the ceiling looking for this crack ... and goddamnit, I find it.”

”I found the crack and I followed the crack and it got bigger ... ‘Calm down Cowboy, reel it in, we’re here, we made it.’ Follow the crack some more, it opens up, out. Boom. There’s the cave. I’m out. You’ve made it.”

As for his friend that started the whole ordeal?

”My guy’s out there,” Cerrone said. “I can’t even be mad at him because he panicked, he grabbed the line and he ran out the hole. He looks at me and he says ‘So we’re not diving together again ever, are we?’ I said ‘No, that was it.’”

Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, knowing Cerrone), Donald still plans on cave diving more in the future.

“I was damn close to writing a letter. It was wild,” he said. “I’m gonna do it again, I’m not scared of it. It just needs to be done ... better. I’ll run my own motherf**king line.”