We caught up with @TonyFergusonXT to discuss coming back from injury & how he has grown as a fighter and a person since it happened. #UFC229 pic.twitter.com/01jxrDxDQh
— UFC News (@UFCNews) October 2, 2018
Seven months ago, if somebody said people were excited about a fight involving Khabib Nurmagomedov in October, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to assume his fight with Tony Ferguson at UFC 223 was a thriller the two had scheduled another bout.
But that fight, once again, never happened, this time due to a knee injury Ferguson sustained a week before the fight was scheduled. Ferguson suffered a torn LCL, had surgery, and instead of squaring off against Nurmagomedov to defend his lightweight title, he’s fighting Anthony Pettis in the co-main on October 6.
The fact that Ferguson is fighting six months after the injury is an accomplishment in itself. Doctors told him it could take up to a year to get back into the octagon, but here he is, in Las Vegas and set to enter the cage on the biggest card of the year. While some would worry about their career after an injury as significant as the one he suffered, don’t count Ferguson among them. Instead, he made significant changes in order to get back to form as quickly as possible, including not drinking since February, starting a garden and getting into better shape.
“Everything just seems to be really, really good, man,” he said. “I hate to say setbacks skyrockets you forward, but in this case, abso-f***ing-lutely.”
Should Ferguson have his hand raised on October 6, he’ll likely look for a shot at whomever holds the lightweight title at the end of the night- a belt Ferguson feels he should still hold heading into this fight card.
“I have so many haters in so many different things,” Ferguson said. “I had my belt taken from me for no reason. I deserved it. I don't know many hours and mat minutes I've had just preparing for all this stuff, but you're going to have to do something a little s***ier. What's the term here? Vegas Stronger? Yeah, I believe that.”
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There are workouts and then there are @TonyFergusonXT workouts. Find out where he gets his ideas from and how his creative exercises benefit him in the Octagon. #UFC229 pic.twitter.com/ESakoBiwwR
— UFC News (@UFCNews) October 3, 2018
UFC: We've been watching your videos on Twitter and everything, your workouts, how're you feeling?
Tony Ferguson: How does it look?
UFC: Looks pretty impressive to me.
TF: I feel pretty good, man. I feel really good.
UFC: Was there ever a time where you were afraid you weren't going to be 100 percent again?
TF: No, I think everybody else was afraid, which is really nice. I've had a whole lot of support during this whole entire fiasco, I guess you would call it. Injuries happen. Either you're hurt, or you're injured. That's something I learned. When you're hurt, you dust yourself off and you get back in the game. But if you're injured, you got to take a f***ing step. So that's what I did. I changed my whole life around, man. I haven't drank since February. I actually quit drinking. Everything in my life has been green. I have a garden I started. My family is going great. My fight life- I have more ripples in my stomach.
UFC: Where do you get your workouts from?
TF: I've been competing in athletics for almost 30 years. I've been cutting weight for almost the same. I've been playing baseball, football, wrestling. I've been saying for a long time, I've been coached by some of the world's best, so I mean, you can only compete for so long before you have to come up with some certain other kind of workouts to have fun and not peak. I don't like to plateau in any of my workouts. I like to keep- I call it Cucuy's Cold Cool Down, and I just have fun with it, and they all have purposes. I mean, it might look goofy as hell, but to me, there's a purpose to it. I don't have to explain it to anybody, but anybody that uses their brain, they can kind of see what I'm doing when testing even throwing the tire around. Look at my knee. I feel f***ing awesome, man. I feel good what I'm doing, and I'm not going to stop.
UFC: Do you think your unique workouts give you an advantage that some fighters don't have because they don’t do that type of workout?
TF: Absolutely. I've had like four or five different strength and conditioning coaches, and each one said, 'You're a master trainer.' And I have to believe that. I mean, we've been to the top level of sports, so I have to keep coming up with these workouts, and I can't just rely on someone to come up with them for me because if I do that, then I'll start plateauing. So, I have to keep it fresh, I have to keep it fun, I have to keep it funky, and that's exactly what's up. I have to put some good music on. Everybody is like, 'Hey, create a Spotify (playlist),' but I'm just like you guys are all jocking my style, man. And I see a lot of people jocking my swag, and nobody is giving me credit, which is the one thing that really pisses me off. So, I just had to put a couple people in their place. Why the f*** are you going to do that? You call me weird, you call me cringe, but yet you want to use my workouts and you want to use my terms? Something's weird about that, so I mean, yeah, I wear my sunglasses inside, and I do my s***, but it's me. I'm not going to change my thing for anybody, not any time soon.
UFC: A motto you've been repping as of late is "Champ S*** Only." What does that mean to you to be constantly putting it out there and reminding people?
TF: Champ S*** Only is a term use I like to use. It's setting the standard above the normal. If you want to be a champion, you're going to have to have a championship mindset. You have to visualize victory, like what's it going to take to get there. How is it going to smell? What's it going to look like? What's it going to feel like? Does it give you goosebumps? How are you going to handle that situation when you're walking outside? When you hear that walkout music, and as soon as you open up those curtains, you see everybody start (to nod), they start nodding their heads because they know that f***ing tune. They know who that s*** belongs too. I never changed my tune. I changed it once; I got put out. So, I've kept my song for a long time, and they always ask me, 'What kind of music do you want listen to?' And I'm just like, 'Girls, guys, y'all know what the f*** is up.'
UFC: How do you visualize Saturday going?
TF: Anthony is a game opponent. We actually entered the UFC at the same time. It was actually funny, I was reminded by my wife. We actually made our debut at the same time, so when he says that, 'Yeah, (Ferguson) was up-and-coming,' he's full of s***. Because around the same time I won The Ultimate Fighter was around the same time he was the main event for that fight. He's a good, game opponent. He's got good kicks, good combos, but he's had his time, and I've seen him quit. That guy is a quitter. I see it in his heart. I see it in his eyes. I see it anywhere that when he gets hit, he wants to stop. It was the same thing when I fought Edson Barboza. I fought the best Edson Barboza that was out there. It was either me or him that was going to win that championship. And then Khabib beat a broken-down Edson Barboza, and you guys got to give that guy a lot more credit because that guy is a human highlight reel. Anthony Pettis, he was the human highlight reel. "Was" is the key term. I'm the champ. I'm still the f***ing champ. I got 10 fights in a row through how many finishes. I used to knock everybody out, and then I got bored and started submitting everybody. So now I want to go back to my old roots, and I want to technically knock these f***ers out.
UFC: How do you balance letting yourself recover after injury while also keeping your edge mentally?
TF: *Takes glasses off* Fuel for the fire, my bro … One year ago, there was a lot of different things happened unfortunately that we had to deal with and we had to keep moving forward, so for me, it's easy because there's worse s*** going on in the world, that instead of me being inside a gym 24 hours a day, taking these steps, listening to my doctors. The funny thing is I didn't take physical therapy one time healing for this. Not one time. I've had so many surgeries for my whole entire life that I learned how to heal myself. Good eating, good sleep, good regimens, making sure you're taking your vitamins and making sure you're listening to your doctor. Pushing the threshold once in a while, getting those good pops and adjustments, making sure you're right mentally and physically and emotionally. A lot of these cats, they don't have it up here (in the head). They don't even have it (in their heart). Old school Bert used to say, 'If it's not (in your head), it's got to be (in your heart). If it's not (in your heart), it's got to be (in your head).' Well, f***ers, I got both. So, when you have both of those and you're able to coachable, like I've always said before, and I kept in contact with my doctors. One of the guys I met that was my PT, he was supposed to be, I went over there, and his demeanor turned me off completely. He shook my hand in a way in which I thought he was full of shit. And that kind of turned me off of a few things, and it pumped me full of fire. It was exactly what I needed to be able to do, and I said I'm going to take this challenge … I have my belt and my TUF trophy. And those two things are my biggest victories besides my son. My son is my biggest victory, so if you guys are going to take food off my table like that, I'm going to fight tooth and nail to get that back, and that is exactly what I've done to prepare for this fight.
Zac Pacleb, Steve Latrell and Gavin Porter are writers and producers for UFC.com. You can follow them on Twitter @ZacPacleb, @TheUFSteve and @PorterUFCnews.