Tony Ferguson was involved in the UFC 229 Fight of the Night and he wasn’t going to be overshadowed by the chaotic events that closed out the evening.
The former interim lightweight champion came out on top of his co-headlining bout against Anthony Pettis at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, getting the better of the bloody battle until Pettis was rendered unable to continue at the end of the second round after suffering a broken hand. It was a massive win for Ferguson, who was returning from a severe knee injury that he suffered in April.
That injury led to the cancellation of his UFC 223 fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov and Ferguson would later be stripped of his interim title. Nurmagomedov would instead defeat Al Iaquinta for a vacant belt at the event, but not before being involved in the now-infamous incident at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn that saw McGregor shatter the window of a bus that was transporting Nurmagomedov as well as several other fighters.
Nurmagomedov and McGregor were booked to face one another in the UFC 229 main event and months of verbal feuding boiled over in dramatic fashion when Nurmagomedov defeated McGregor by fourth-round submission and then proceeded to leap over the Octagon fence and attack McGregor’s cornermen. Members of Nurmagomedov’s team then became involved in a physical altercation with McGregor inside the cage.
At the evening’s post-fight press conference, Ferguson had much to say about a number of topics, including the antics of his lightweight rivals.
“I’m the f*cking champ. You guys realize that, right?,” Ferguson asked. “I’ve been the champ. I am the champ. You have these two knuckleheads over there making this sport look bad. … I don’t have a belt up here, I don’t need to have a belt up here to be the champ. So if you guys want to feed that, go ahead, put that in your pocket and take it with you.
“But what I’m doing here is cleaning up the sport. This is an Olympic-level type of sport and it needs to be cleaned up. I’ve been training like an Olympian. I’ve took so many different things out of my life that I didn’t need anymore and I just felt lifted. So awesome. Such a great feeling.”
Ferguson didn’t outright condemn Nurmagomedov or McGregor, acknowledging that the emotions surrounding a fight can get out of control. However, he stated that his own personal philosophy revolves around competing for his family, his coaches, and for the thrill of victory.
He had high praise for Pettis, and also addressed Nurmagomedov and McGregor respectfully.
“When this stuff happens in different sports, it puts a bad taste in it,” Ferguson said. “But we’re trying to clean it up and we’re trying to clean it up as much as possible. That’s not for me anymore, I don’t have to get all crazy on it.
“If there’s another fighter in front of me, which I hope is Khabib or Conor — I even call him Conor, I’ll give him that respect — I don’t have to call them ‘tiramisu’ or ‘McNuggets’ because I have all the sauce, and I’m very sweet.”
Asked when he might fight again, Ferguson said he could be ready within a week. He sounded eager to make up for lost time, especially when it comes to Nurmagomedov. The two have been at the top of the lightweight rankings for the past few years and actually matched up on four different occasions, only to see their fights fall through due to misfortune striking both men.
Of course, he wouldn’t mind facing McGregor either, a potential rival in whom he perceives weakness.
“Khabib and I deserve to fight,” Ferguson said. “We need to fight for the fifth time, we need to try this out again. He is the champ, I was the interim champ. I’m still the f**king champ. There’s no BS in this.
“Conor does not want to fight me. I saw him when we were walking out to the weigh-ins. He walked up, he did his strut, I turned around and he f**king stopped. He looked like a deer in headlights. Nobody wants to be trapped inside that cage with me. They don’t want to get killed by my elbows. They don’t want to get hit by any of my kicks and they don’t want to get their conditioning checked by me. I’m a different animal than these guys. They want to be animals inside there, I’m a dogcatcher guys. I got a noose for them.”
Currently riding an 11-fight win streak, Ferguson has plenty of options and even teased a possible move up to welterweight after completing his business at 155 pounds. The one thing he doesn’t want to hear is the UFC booking Nurmagomedov and McGregor for an immediate rematch.
“Rematch? The dude got finished,” Ferguson said. “Dude got straight up finished. If you got finished, you need to move the f**k on.”