Tony Ferguson: “Expect Greatness From Me” at UFC 209
Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (23-3, 12-1 in the UFC) has been on an absolute tear, winning nine fights in a row, last tasting defeat in May of 2012.
His most recent victory was a “Fight of the Night” unanimous decision victory over former champion Rafael dos Anjos back in November.
On Saturday Night, March 4th, from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, in the co-main event, Ferguson will have his first shot at UFC gold as he takes on the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0 MMA, 8-0 in the UFC) at UFC 209 for the UFC interim lightweight championship.
This will be the third attempt in making this fight a reality. It was originally scheduled for December of 2015 at the TUF 22 finale. Nurmagomedov had a rib injury that forced him out of the fight. It was then rescheduled for April of last year at UFC on Fox 19 in Tampa. This time, Ferguson was forced to withdraw due to blood and fluid in his lungs. While fans around the world have been clamoring for this fight to come to fruition, Ferguson’s excitement may surpass them all.
“Super pumped for this fight, I’m stoked,” Ferguson said while appearing on the SFLC Podcast.
“All this BS, it’s too much talking man! What else can I say other than I want to punch this guy in the face in the most humane way possible and take him into deep waters all 5 rounds!…Excited man!”
There were some hurdles to get this matchup signed, sealed and delivered. Both fighters were vocal on making it a reality, but the biggest hurdle came down to Ferguson wanted to be treated on equal footing as the co-challenger Nurmagomedov. While doing a media scrum during the UFC 207 fight week festivities in Las Vegas, UFC president Dana White said, “Khabib has a different deal. That ain’t happening. Count that out.”
Ferguson didn’t let White’s comment deter him, and his patience and persistence paid off.
“Pen to paper was when the UFC met my standards on a couple key notes,” Ferguson said.
“I love my company that I represent, I work really hard for them. It’s all about the fight right now, I wanna see the fight and the fans wanna see the fight, so I only thought it was fair, and I stuck to my guns, that was it. I signed on the line, I wanna fight this guy…this is the fight that everybody wants to see, and I knew (I wanted) the numbers to make sense…I put my title and my effort in here, and my punches don’t lie! I knock people out and I finish them with my D’arce. I aim to do that every fight.”
A remarkable trend we have begun to see is fighters sticking together for a common goal. This is something we saw with Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz leading up to their rematch at UFC 202 last year. Khabib Nurmagomedov made it clear, he either wanted McGregor or Tony Ferguson. No other fight would do. In fact, Nurmagomedov was willing to put up $200,000 of his own money to Ferguson to make this fight happen. This is something “El Cucuy” appreciated, but it was also something that opened his eyes.
“I was a little more insulted that the UFC wouldn’t match what Khabib did (the 200K offer), at first,” Ferguson said.
“It was like, it was kind of insult to injury, but what it was, was just an eye-opener to see that this is business, and you have to take care of business inside and outside of the cage, and that’s what I’m doing, and this is what we result with, which is Pay-Per-View, baby! I’ve been working man, I’ve been working my butt off! All this, the lights, camera, action, all the other stuff that comes with it, that’s the best part about it. The fun part about it is the fight part, all the BS and everything else I don’t care about, I have management for that, and that’s what they handle.”
Ferguson has always had the gift of gab. Very intelligent, well-spoken, with a knack for promotion. Nurmagomedov has followed suit as of late, with no better example then after, and even during, his victory over Michael Johnson at UFC 205 this past November. While UFC fans have been appreciative of Khabib’s personality bursting through, Tony Ferguson isn’t all that impressed.
“Oh he’s a TROLL on Twitter,” Ferguson said.
“He’s got other people helping him write that stuff, man, because we were right there front-face and center, he didn’t have much to say. I was right there, I didn’t understand one word he was saying, and I was trying to learn his language just so I could curse at him out in his own language, straight up. There’s no language barrier there, man. We know that there’s gonna be a fight, and that’s the best part about it. This is like a bushido code, man.”
While social media should be buzzing with the back and forth leading up to March 4th between these two sensational lightweights, Ferguson is working on some things of his own to get our attention.
“I can’t wait to show you guys some of my mitt sessions, I’m a scary dude,” Ferguson said. “I can’t wait to show you guys some of my slamming wrestling sessions, so that way he’s like, oh sht, maybe I can do jiu-jitsu, and then I can show him some of my 10th Planet stuff and he’s like, oh sht, let me do muay thai…on wait, nooo, I’m stuck. Hey, let me fake an injury. I can’t wait for the date…watch this sh*t, set your DVRs.”
The word “interim” has seemed to cause ill-will among fighters and fans as it relates to championship gold in the UFC. Although Conor McGregor won the undisputed title only this past November, his future remains uncertain in 2017. The interim UFC Lightweight title will be on the line at UFC 209, and Tony Ferguson is grateful for the opportunity, interim or not.
“The belt, that’s icing on the cake,” Ferguson said.
“I’m gonna whoop this dude’s butt, man. I wanna prove that I’m the best challenger out there. I know for a fact that Khabib and I are gonna promote, and we’re gonna do our thing and we’re gonna give you guys exactly what you want, which is 5 full rounds of raw carnage, with an extra 4 minutes to hear what we gotta say in the corners. Man, literally, Im gonna be over there saying, ‘Man, I wanna break this guy’s shin, or I wanna do this to his face.’ I’m gonna be so amped up looking at him on the other side, making him know that my conditioning is better than his. Looking at him in the eyes, hopefully he’s looking at me. I’m gonna look at all his coaches, too, and I’m gonna stare them all down, all of them at AKA, dude. I got a lot of respect for all these coaches, but the best thing is, I can take them out one-by-one by working my ass off, doing what I do best, going in there a being loose and letting my jab fly. This dude’s not gonna touch me.”
While Ferguson isn’t a fighter who makes predictions, he is a fighter who is making a promise to all of the fans who will be watching UFC 209 on March 4th.
“You know what, it’s gonna be an amazing fight,” Ferguson said. “I hope it doesn’t go first round, that’s bullsh*t. If I trained this whole entire time, I want it to go all five rounds. But I’m not saying it’s gonna go all 5, I’m saying I’m gonna give a hell of a performance, it’s gonna be amazing, and expect greatness from me. Aim to be inspired!”
LISTEN TO TONY FERGUSON’S INTERVIEW ON THE SFLC PODCAST BELOW (57:40 IN)