In this world, there are good places and bad places. Donald Cowboy Cerrone’s BMF Ranch in New Mexico is a good place. Out there, you can build what you want, and no inspector from the city is going to say shit. You can raise buffalo, buy magic mushrooms by the pound, and shoot whenever you damn well please; nobody’s going to call the cops. Hell, they’d probably just smile and ask for a bag of alligator jerky if they showed up at all.
You probably know Cowboy Cerrone as a UFC fighter; that’s how I learned about him back in the day. I remember when he declared, “This ain’t a fight, it’s an ass-whoopin’ contest.”
He’s since retired from the octagon, but I think the guy is actually more imposing than ever. He races UTVs, wins shooting competitions, and raises his own livestock for meat. He keeps pretty fast company, too.
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Welcome to the World of Cowboy Cerrone in Retirement
When I arrived at BMF Ranch, I was greeted by a herd of buffalo, a line of Can-Am Outlander ATVs, a professionally built off-road track, and a shooting range out to about 700 yards.
“Holy shit,” I thought to myself. “This is the real deal.”
Cowboy bought the ranch more than a decade ago. Back then, it was nothing more than a small house on an otherwise empty lot. He settled in by building an MMA training facility where he and other fighters could train, recover, and develop life skills like construction and vehicle maintenance — you know, living the dream.
Now that Cowboy is done terrorizing other UFC fighters, he’s added a barber shop, bar, reloading building (yeah, a whole building), and an eight-bay garage full of off-road racing vehicles built in partnership with Can-Am to the property.
Livestock on the ranch includes buffalo, beefalo, cows, pigs, goats, turkeys, geese, chickens, horses, and dogs. The Cerrone family only eats meat that he raises or hunts.
What better way to get a lay of the land than for the man himself to show me around?
What I thought was a pizza oven is actually a traditional Native American sauna (don’t worry, the pizza oven is nearby). Larger crowds can use the Nordic sauna a few steps away.
“See that guy on the wall?” Cowboy asked, pointing to a wooden cutout of a cartoon man taking a piss. “When his boner points straight up, it’s 212 degrees in here. We melted a smoke detector. The lights start dripping.”
“We have these hats we dunk in cold water and wear on our heads,” he added. “I’ll do 90 minutes in here.”
That kind of recovery is intense, but so is having your own gym and octagon. Cowboy built everything he wants at the BMF Ranch by hand, and not a single bit of it is half-assed.
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As cool as the gym and sauna were, I had come to the BMF Ranch to ride.
The jump in front of me was a 20-foot tabletop. The speed on the dash was about 35 mph. The vehicle was a 2023 Can-Am Outlander 700, and my enthusiasm level was through the roof. Ladies and gentlemen, we have liftoff.
It must have been 15 years since the last time I was on a four-wheeler. Back then, I was a college kid wringing a Honda Rancher 250’s poor little neck to keep up with my friends who were hauling ass all over southern Oklahoma on brand-new Kawasaki Brute Force 750s.
The 2023 Outlander I was on is a massive step up in power and sophistication, but I have to give Can-Am credit — this entry-level ATV made me feel comfortable enough to push myself within a few minutes of thumbing the starter.
The Outlander made landfall on the back end of the tabletop so gracefully that it’s hard to know exactly when the wheels hit the dirt. The 10-inch shocks (well, 9.75 inches in the front and 10.25 inches in the rear) might be entry-level, but they absorbed the weight of a 740-pound ATV and a 200-pound rider like it was nothing.
For two days, Cowboy opened his personal track to me and a few other writers so we could test a new range of midsize ATVs. Our ride leader was a Quebecois Can-Am employee accurately known as Simon Sender.
Just in case his riding wasn’t enough of an ego check, Can-Am brought along one of its not-so-tame racing drivers, Dustin Jones. The Louisiana native has won more off-road races than I can keep track of, and he damn near made me piss my pants during a ride-along in his Maverick X3 the last time I saw him.
This time, Dustin’s weapon of choice was the new Outlander X MR 700, and his victim was a deep, nasty mud pit about the size of a shipping container. After making the 50-horsepower ATV his personal plaything, he slid off the muddy seat and turned it over to yours truly.
“Four low,” he said, wiping mud off the Outlander’s digital display. “Always low. Diff lock, sport mode, you’re good!”
The thigh-deep mud bog was a new experience for me, and the last thing I wanted to do was roll the ATV and pin myself to the bottom — with an audience, no less. I reminded myself of a few wise words from Jeremy Clarkson: “Speed and power solve many things.”
The first pass had me hooked. The X MR 700 is so good that even a ham-fisted writer like me can get through gnarly terrain in one piece. I spun around on the other end and came back for round two.
“Try a water wheelie,” Dustin hollered into my helmet over the sound of the engine. “Stop when you get to the deep end. Sit back, give it lots of gas, and the front end will float right up.”
It’s just that easy. A few more romps and it was someone else’s turn.
By the time I reluctantly handed the reins over to the next rider, my allegedly waterproof boots were holding water like buckets, my goggles were more brown than clear, and my face hurt from smiling.
Sitting on an Outlander Pro with my socks drying on the muffler and my bare feet swinging in the breeze, I wondered how the day could get any better.
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Sun’s Out, Guns Out When You’re Hanging With Cowboy Cerrone
True firearm addiction is not achieved when you start collecting weird guns like lever-action rifles chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor topped with a thermal scope (which is now a thing I have seen in the wild). No, true obsession officially begins when you get into reloading.
Within seconds of stepping into Cowboy’s home reloading facility, I could safely diagnose his Obsessive Accuracy Syndrome.
Plucking one box after another from the shelves, he showed me various cases, primers, propellants, and bullets. All of them were important ingredients in his recipe for success.
“Here’s a .223,” he said while he held out a red-tipped bullet. “Here’s a .308 I use in my .300 Blackout. You can see how much more ass it has.”
That ass (technical term) comes in handy when hunting feral hogs in Texas. There’s a SIG Sauer MCX Rattler that he just can’t get enough of for that kind of work.
The rest of the time, he focuses on perfecting a subsonic .223 load that can keep suppressed sound production as low as possible while still cycling reliably. The key to that, he pointed out, is in his library of reloading manuals.
“Follow the book or blow the fuck up,” he advised.
I got to hear one of those rounds and can confirm it’s about as quiet as releasing the bolt on a semi-automatic .22. Cowboy was also generous enough to share a few pieces from his collection, including a Henry lever-action rifle, a pistol he won in a shooting contest, a custom SIG that Tim Kennedy built for him, and a skeletonized AR with a can.
By the time we finished packing up, the sun was settling below the horizon — and that’s when things got really fun.
Out came a SIG Sauer Cross bolt gun with a thermal scope. Paired with a matching rangefinder, the reticle automatically adjusted with so much precision that it was almost foolproof.
I shot a small deer silhouette at about 200 yards, which was too easy with that setup. The only tricky part was finding the targets in the sagebrush using the grayscale display.
The steel was cooling down from a day in the sun, and it was only a matter of time before it reached ambient temperature and vanished from view. Before that could happen, Cowboy took over and set the sights on a target about 500 yards away.
The distant song of lead colliding with steel was our dinner bell. We called it a night and headed to the ranch’s bar to fill our bellies with barbecue.
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Bonfire, Beer, and One Important Xbox
The BMF Ranch is almost paradise for red-blooded Americans, but it turns out that it’s much more than a fun place to burn through gas and ammo.
After dinner, we were knocking back drinks around the bonfire when it came out that Cowboy and Dustin host a camp for troubled kids without dads. They, along with more than a dozen volunteers, spend a few weeks during the summer teaching young teens basic life skills and serving as desperately needed role models.
“Kids can smell bullshit,” Dustin said. “Whatever they’re dealing with, whatever they’re into, we’ve been there.”
That trust lets the volunteers reach the kids on a personal level and get them on a healthy, productive path.
“If their mom’s car breaks down, they can change a tire,” Cowboy said. “They can jump a battery, they know how to change the oil.”
That’s not all — mentors instill firearms safety and teach the kids how to shoot. The kids practice martial arts and exercise every day. Counselors treat them with respect and demand the same in return.
Campers might show up shy, mischievous, lacking direction, or all three, but they go home as young adults and lifelong friends.
One of the ways kids from all over the U.S. and Canada stay connected when they part ways is through video games.
Dustin told us about one young camper who struggled more than most to come out of his shell. The kid was small and timid. He’d been bullied. He had problems at home, and video games were about the only thing that made him happy.
During his time at BMF Ranch, he found confidence, pride, new skills, and a few friends who loved gaming as much as he did. But when the time drew short, and everyone exchanged gamer tags to stay in touch, he fell quiet again.
“I can’t play with you guys,” he said. “My mom’s boyfriend left, and he took my Xbox.”
The other kids weren’t the only people listening when he said that. After they all went to bed that night, Dustin and Cowboy drove to the nearest Walmart. They bought an Xbox, a year’s subscription, and all the games they could find.
The next day, they made sure he went home with a gaming system and a way to stay connected to the best friends he’d ever known. Racing driver and UFC fighter included.
Dustin had a hard time telling the story without getting choked up. It was pretty tough on the listening end, too. I washed the lump out of my throat with another sip and stared into the fire.
Riding four-wheelers and shooting guns were cool. BMF buffalo jerky tasted awesome. The best part of the weekend, though? That was hanging out with some of the most solid motherfuckers I’ve met in my entire life.
The BMF Ranch is a good place, alright. A damn good place.
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