Tony Ferguson has blazed one hell of a trail in the UFC. Once simply known as the somewhat unpopular TUF 13 winner, ‘El Cucuy” dropped a unanimous decision to Michael Johnson (a fight in which he broke his arm) back in 2012, and since then he’s been nigh unstoppable. Currently, he’s riding a 9-fight unbeaten streak, and his win percentage of 92.3 is 2nd highest all time in promotional history (for fighters with at least 10 fights in the Octagon).
And while his status as one of the world’s top lightweights is undeniable, his time as a title challenger has yet to come. In part, that’s a matter of circumstance. A lack of dominance at the top of the division, coupled with a number of injuries means that the lightweight title has only been defended 7 times since 2012, less than twice a year. The other factor at play may be that Ferguson is more interested in blazing his own trail than he is in getting his hands on a belt for the sake of status:
“It’s already a reality,” Ferguson told Sub Radio when asked about becoming a top pound-for-pound fighter. “I’m already in title contention. I’ve got these guys in a chess match and I’m calling three moves. The lightweight title will be mine, but I’m looking for multiples and I am looking for that best pound for pound spot. Getting that best pound-for-pound spot will mean that I do have multiple titles around my waist.
“I’ve never been much for the accolades and for the trophies and for the merits because at one time in my life I kind of got board of all those. Wrestling these tournaments every single weekend and getting a medal just for like going out there and competing, and I just started throwing them in a box. I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want that title to come to my hands and be like, ‘nah, I don’t feel like it was deserved or it wasn’t earned or whatever’ – not saying that any of my accolades weren’t, but I want it to be special. I want it to be super special and just super dope, and even if it’s not special to everybody else, at least it is to me. And honestly, I don’t fight for anybody else besides myself and my family, so therefore I win. If anybody wants me to go for the title and they’re telling me that, I’m gonna go the complete opposite way. Just in this fight game and in the fact that that’s what everybody else is doing. I’m not a follower, I’m a leader. I don’t ever try to follow anybody’s lead. I try to pave my own path. That way, it’s trial and error, man. Sometimes you don’t have a blueprint to pave the path that you’re given.”
As part of his plan to really put his mark on the MMA landscape, Ferguson says that he’s going to be chasing belts at 155, 170, and even 145.
“I guarantee you I can make 145,” Ferguson said. “This last fight camp I had no nutritionist’s help. I did my own thing and I did it really well. Like I said, I had to get away from all the bullshit and really get back in tune with my own self and my family, where my head was at and finding the fun back in this sport. Because when you stop having fun in this sport, the weight cuts become harder and everything else becomes harder. When I’m having fun, I’m doing the salsa dance inside the cage, I’m throwing some different kind of combos, my feet are there. You know, I feel my feet underneath me, I’m not slipping on some stupid stickers, I’m doing my homework on all this stuff. I’m actually taking this a little bit more serious than I did before. I’m having more fun with it. You know, it’s not becoming that wrestling thing where I used to throw my medals inside the box anymore. I’m having fun with this where I want to start experimenting with my moves again and start coming up with new things, not just a Imanari roll – by the way, EA Sports needs to update my rankings on my shit too (laughs). So that I start throwing some superman punches off the cage too. Just take some notes.”
“What I’m trying to do is change the game. Not a lot. Just enough so people notice it and the up-and-coming people try to beat whatever I’m doing. They’re going to go out there and try to double up on what I’m doing and keep me competitive. Because those are the guys that are really keeping us competitive, not these guys at the top.”
And while the obvious first step for this multi-division conquering master-plan is a lightweight title fight, it seems like Ferguson won’t be surprised if that doesn’t mean an immediate fight with Conor McGregor. Ferguson went as far as to call for an interim title fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov, telling Sub Radio, “If [Conor McGregor]’s going to step off for a little while, then they need to throw in an interim belt.” Especially if McGregor is more interested in fighting Nate Diaz than either Ferguson or Nurmagomedov.
“Well of course he’s going to pick on a number five,” Ferguson said of McGregor’s coach talking up a Diaz trilogy bout. “He doesn’t want to pick on anyone else that’s higher than that. I mean, the guy’s picking his opponents. He’s a paper champ. When you’re doing that, of course you’re going to be close and you’re going to be watching who you’re fighting. A long and lankier type of opponent is gonna be probably one of the best threats, but it’s also gonna be one of the best fighters for him because he’s going to go toe to toe. Now when you put Conor against a guy like me, who’s going to be unpredictable, attacking your ankles and attacking your chin and your mid-section, and you got Khabib Nurmagomedov, who actually could take a punch here and there. And I mean, he’s got some time off, so I mean he’s got full rest recovery in his body. He’s going to be able to take the punishment, but can you take that ground and pound and that grinding?
“Conor poses no threat to what myself or Khabib has. I see no threat in this dude. This dude is just a lot of talk. He has a nice left hand, but my solid straight right and my left hook and my lead uppercut and my inside leg kicks – honestly, my whole repertoire is better than what he’s got. You put numbers on top of that, I’ll bet my head will be raised. And I don’t want these guys, regardless of when I fight them, I’m not gonna try to go out there and go for the quick finish. I want them to go through the pain. I want them to go through the five rounds with me. That’s what I want now. This has been such a great opportunity for me to go out there and do all my finishes to get all my highlight films. Perfect. Great. Now I want as much mat time as I can get. I want to put these guys out there and make them quit, so that there is no rematch. So everyone can see how fake these guys are and put them through the punishment, tap them out later on, make them want to quit. Unanimous decision. Doesn’t matter. Make them go the five rounds and then just make them think twice about wanting to fight again.”
No word yet on what or when Ferguson’s next fight may be. He even teased the possibility that he’ll be competing in a few sub grappling tournaments, including the Eddie Bravo Invitational coming up, just to kill time if he can’t get a quick top contender bout. So, the next time you see Ferguson may just be on the grappling circuit.