Tony Ferguson and Fabricio Werdum nearly came to blows last Thursday at a UFC 216 media lunch in Los Angeles.
The flap started when Werdum seemed to talk over Ferguson while Ferguson was speaking to reporters at Hinoki & The Bird restaurant in Century City. It escalated from there and the two UFC fighters had to be separated by UFC public-relations official Chris Costello.
When asked afterward about the situation, Ferguson intimated that he didn’t want to sit next to Werdum, because Werdum’s manager is Ali Abdel-Aziz, who also manages Ferguson’s rival Khabib Nurmagomedov. Ferguson and Abdel-Aziz have gotten into it multiple times on social media and exchanged more harsh words following the Werdum confrontation.
“I just don’t like the guy and I don’t like his manager,” Ferguson said. “I don’t like fake people. I can read right through people. Like I told you, I’m a good judge of character. Now that we’ve got that out of the way … .
“I told everybody, I was like, ‘Don’t put him next to me. Don’t put me next to a guy that’s managed by him.’ I don’t like that shit.”
Abdel-Aziz told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that he has “no beef” with Ferguson. The manager said Werdum told him the tensions first began last Thursday when Ferguson didn’t extend a hand for Werdum to shake at the beginning of the lunch, instead just giving him an elbow and not looking at him.
“In a way, honestly, I’m so proud of Fabricio Werdum not to fold his ass and beat his ass,” Abdel-Aziz said, “and the reason why he didn’t do that is probably because he didn’t want to lose the UFC main event [at UFC 216] and he respects Chris Costello. That’s what he told me. But on a normal day, Fabricio would have beat his ass.”
Abdel-Aziz doesn’t have too many kind words for Ferguson. Actually, he thinks Ferguson should credit him. Earlier this year, Nurmagomedov had the option of fighting Jose Aldo when Ferguson was mired in contract discussions with the UFC. Nurmagomedov’s team, though, was firm that they wanted Ferguson, Abdel-Aziz. Of course, the fight never happened at UFC 209 in March, because Nurmagomedov got sick and was hospitalized during his weight cut.
“If it was not for me, Khabib would have been whooping on Jose Aldo,” Abdel-Aziz said. “But we wanted to fight Tony Ferguson, because he was the No. 1 guy or the No. 2 guy. Tony Ferguson, he owes me. He owes me for re-negotiating his deal, because if I said [Khabib] will fight Jose Aldo, he’d be making 40 and 40 ($40,000 to show, $40,000 to win) fighting on Fight Pass somewhere. But we held our ground to the UFC.”
The argument between Ferguson and Werdum deteriorated into profanity and homophobic slurs. Werdum called Ferguson a “f*ggot” in Spanish multiple times and apologized for it Friday. The released a statement Friday night saying Werdum would do outreach in the LGBT community due to his insensitive comments.
Abdel-Aziz said Ferguson used the word, too, and that was under-reported. The manager said Werdum meant no harm and the word doesn’t have the same kind of context in Spanish as it does in English.
“It’s insulting to other people, 100 percent,” Abdel-Aziz said. “I don’t think anybody should be discriminated against because of gender, race. This is something I suffer from every day and my kids suffer from. It doesn’t matter your race, your gender, your sexual choice, it’s your business. As far as I know, God only judges people, nobody should be judging other people.”
Abdel-Aziz, an Egyptian immigrant and Muslim, admitted to being hit with stereotypes because of his ethnicity and religion. He said Werdum is not racist, nor homophobic and he believes the Brazilian former UFC heavyweight champion will refrain from using that word in the future.
“The word, I agree, should not be used publicly,” Abdel-Aziz said. “Now, I think Fabricio has a clear understanding.”
None of this, though, makes Abdel-Aziz feel any differently about Ferguson, who he’ll likely see this week at UFC 216 in Las Vegas. Ferguson headlines against Kevin Lee at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night.
“He wants to be the crazy guy, you don’t see his eyes,” Abdel-Aziz said. “The mysterious guy. Get the fuck out of here. He’s a joke, he’s a clown.”