Tony Ferguson is one of the UFC’s stand out performers in the lightweight division who is riding a nine fight win streak including the likes of Edson Barboza and Rafael dos Anjos. While there are many who believe he is a championship caliber fighter, Ferguson has yet to receive a title shot despite being ranked second behind Khabib Nurmagomedov. Ferguson’s hopes of earning a title shot were answered by simply stepping back into the octagon and fighting. In fact, Ferguson even fought the dangerous Lando Vannata on two weeks notice after his original opponent, Michael Chiesa was forced out last July. Today, Ferguson once again finds himself in a difficult spot, but he’s taking a different approach.
The 33-year-old’s recent addition to his family in the form of his newborn son might be the reason for his change in mentality. For example, Ferguson was willing to take on a new opponent last year when his opponent fell out, but when his fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 209 fell through in March, Ferguson opted against taking a fight against anybody else besides Nurmagomedov. There was a brief agreement to Nate Diaz and Ferguson locking horns in July, but Diaz declined soon after. Ferguson would instead remain on the sidelines with his last performance taking place last November against Rafael dos Anjos.
Some of the potential opponents included Edson Barboza, who he defeated in 2015 via 2nd round submission. While he did manage to finish Barboza, the win came after a severe illegal up kick landed on Barboza, stunning him in the process. Barboza has been stunned several times in his career and it was clear that he was significantly hurt following the up kick. The referee ignored Barboza’s shaky legs and even implied that he was trying to milk it. Since the loss, Barboza went on a tear, defeating Anthony Pettis, Gllbert Melendez, and Beneil Dariush. Ferguson could’ve opted for a rematch in order to further state his case that he is the best light weight on the planet, but instead he’s been critical of Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz’s lack of activity. McGregor is not expected to defend his title this year and Diaz is not expected back unless he is paid accordingly while Ferguson believes he should await Nurmagomedov’s return, which is still unknown. The pair have been scheduled to fight in three separate occasions, but injuries to both men derailed those plans.
The risk of the often injured Nurmagomedov making it to fight night didn’t deter Ferguson from waiting and waiting. The fight according to both parties could be scheduled in November. The reason for Nurmagomedov’s layoff following his visit to the emergency room the night before UFC 209 was due to Ramadan occurring from May until late June. Everybody was aware that Nurmagomedov was intent on returning in September the earliest. Six months after Ferguson was expected to compete. Ferguson had a chance to fight Michael Johnson on extremely late notice, but declined after being denied the same pay and the same stakes, the interim UFC lightweight championship.
It makes sense that he didn’t want to fight somebody on short notice, but claiming the reason was because it wasn’t for the interim title doesn’t make sense since the title is merely a title since McGregor possesses the real belt. The lack of money would make sense if Ferguson didn’t remain on the sidelines this entire time. He would’ve made more money from fighting Johnson or anybody between March and most likely November. Instead, he appears content on keeping his status as the #2 lightweight in the world. The last time Ferguson took a risk fighting somebody on short notice who was regarded as being beneath him in terms of rankings, he was rocked by Lando VanNurmagomedov might be the ticket to a title shot, but when Ferguson dismissed fighters like Barboza, Justin Gaethje and Kevin Lee for being beneath him, why not prove it? Ferguson was originally pitted against Michael Johnson at UFC 197, who was coming off a loss
If somebody like Gaethje is not on his level, why not eliminate his momentum while awaiting the elusive Dagestani. Ferguson wanted a fight against Diaz just as Gaethje wanted a fight against Ferguson, but both men declined for very similar reasons. If Ferguson were champion, he’d have to fight one or the other or maybe even both, but of course he would also be getting paid more handsomely. Makes sense, but another way of securing a nice hefty payday is by renegotiating one’s contract. Despite the 9 fight win streak, it seems Ferguson couldn’t secure a new deal, but in those instances, remaining active would be the best bet in bettering one’s chances.
Ferguson could’ve had an interim title fight at UFC 209 against Jose Aldo, who was the UFC featherweight champion at the time, but he declined. Ferguson previously stated three months prior that he was eyeing a fight against Aldo at 145 lbs down the line. Despite being offered that opportunity minus the extra weight cut and for the interim lightweight title, Ferguson opted to fight Nurmagomedov and we all know how that turned out.
The inconsistency in Ferguson’s were also clear in the fact that he willingly accepted a fight against Michael Johnson for UFC 196 last March who was ranked beneath him and coming off a loss to Nate Diaz. One could argue that Ferguson was attempting to redeem his loss to Johnson in 2012, but their last fight was four long years ago. He also didn’t appear interested in redeeming that loss after their fight fell through.
Ferguson is expected back at UFC 217 in November at Madison Square Garden against Nurmagomedov. One year removed from his last outing.