Moving up in the UFC lightweight division isn’t easy. Just ask Tony Ferguson.
A winner of four straight fights, three by way of stoppage, Ferguson has amassed a 7-1 record inside the Octagon. And following his most recent victory, a rear-naked choke submission over Abel Trujillo at UFC 181, Ferguson called for a step up in competition.
“Top 10,” Ferguson requested for his next opponent at the UFC 181 post-fight press conference. He even went so far as to call out the lightweight champ and the division’s second-ranked fighter, adding “Hey, [Anthony Pettis] keep that belt warm bro, I’m coming for it, and you Khabib [Nurmagomedov] too.”
But Ferguson’s plea would fall on deaf ears, as he was eventually partnered with the unranked Yancy Medeiros for UFC 184.
With Medeiros pulling out of the contest just three weeks ago, Ferguson was ultimately matched with another unranked fighter, veteran lightweight Gleison Tibau. And while a date with Tibau makes sense (both fighter have previously lost to 6th-ranked Michael Johnson), it was far from the marquee bout Ferguson was hoping for.
“Gleison Tibau… he got offered the fight one time other than [this]. He didn’t take [that] fight with me, this time he has the opportunity to fight me and I’m gonna come out with my hand raised this weekend,” explains Ferguson just days before UFC 184.
The fight against Tibau is an interesting one, if only because the Brazilian has a chance to set the UFC takedown record against Ferguson. But the California native is not having any of it, determined not to be a statistic.
“He comes out, does a couple things predictable. We know exactly what he’s gonna try and go for,” states Ferguson. “If this guy wants to tie the GSP record for most takedowns and most winningest record in the UFC, it’s not gonna happen this weekend at UFC 184.”
Tibau doesn’t seem to put too much fear in Ferguson’s mind. He’s confident in his striking, jiu jitsu, and takedown defense and prepared for the bout. But what has really got Ferguson’s blood boiling for the past week has been UFC bantamweight Mike De La Torre, who pilfered Ferguson’s trademark nickname “El Cucuy,” a moniker Fightland’s Pedro Olavarria broke down last December.
Using “El Cucuy” as his calling card since starting his pro career in 2008, Ferguson has gone to great lengths to booster his boogeyman brand after winning The Ultimate Fighter’s thirteenth season, and the thought of someone else copying his style clearly agitates the Orange County, CA-based athlete.
“There’s only one O.G. El Cucuy,” offers Ferguson. “And that’s me Tony Ferguson… I’ve had that nickname since 2008… [and] as far as the fans and myself is concerned–you guys hear the guys over here and the fans—what’s my name? El Cucuy.”
Still, the nickname controversy pales in comparison to Ferguson’s biggest hurdle this weekend, convincing UFC matchmakers to finally give him a top-10 opponent in his next outing.
“What the matchmakers see in me is potential, I would at least hope so,” adds Ferguson. “They’re giving me these fights to get me to grow… so I give them 150 percent inside that Octagon… and I’m not gonna be a sleeper.”
Now let’s see if Ferguson can finally get the respect he earned.
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