It’s easy to forget Tony Ferguson’s winning streak lives strong at 11 fights, but when the lightweight division feels mired in drama, keeping track of everyone in the title picture can get tricky.
Whether it’s contenders getting suspended for out-of-the-Octagon skirmishes, interim belts being handed out or a wily veteran refocusing his career with tunnel vision toward the strap, the 155-pound division is ripe for drama if not for movement.
One of the more enticing plots in 2019 is Donald Cerrone’s resurgence in the lightweight division. “Cowboy” opened the year with a demolishing of hot prospect Alexander Hernandez at UFC Brooklyn in January, only to follow that with a dominant unanimous decision over Al Iaquinta. Cerrone points to the birth of his son, Dacson Danger Cerrone, as a big source of inspiration in his chase toward gold late in his decorated career. With that said, though, Ferguson isn’t blown away by his opponent’s recent run.
“I’m not going to take that from his plate,” Ferguson said. “I really won’t. He’s earned his spot here, but what I see is an unsure Cowboy. The dude bounced from 155 to 170 pounds. When you’re doing that, you’re just like (Anthony) Pettis. You’re unsure of exactly where you belong in this division. You might want to fight to get out of your contract. You got a different bunch of things going on. Yeah, he’s got a kid. I got a kid too, buddy. Same thing, man. Ain’t no different.”
While Cerrone has enjoyed a pleasurable last year, Ferguson’s was filled with a major knee injury and adversity outside of the gym. Even so, “El Cucuy” hasn’t lost any of his charisma, his focus nor his ability to wax poetic about his own career. This fight, which some have dubbed “the people’s main event,” is no exception.
“I think this fight is just to remind the people that it’s about the fight game,” he said. “It ain’t about the politics. That’s what UFC is, it’s Ultimate Fighting Championship. I mean, s***, every fight is a f***ing championship.”
The 35-year-old is one of the first to mention he never lost the belt, and while he initially toes the line around the incoming lightweight title unification bout coming to UFC 242, he can’t help himself.
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“Dustin Poirier, nothing against you dude, but you told me that I was the champ, straight-up,” Ferguson said. “He said, ‘Tony is the champ. He deserves to have that one,’ but look, money talks, bulls*** walks. You dangle a little bit of money in front of somebody, just like Jerry Maguire – I’m Rod Tidwell, baby. I ain’t dancing, baby. Only inside that Octagon.”
Speaking of getting inside the Octagon, Ferguson said he’s relishing being back in the swing of fight week. While going on a run in Chicago, he enjoyed getting several callouts from fans, which is what got him through tough downtime while he recovered from a knee injury in early-2018.
He recovered from that knee injury quicker than anyone thought, and he and Pettis put on a Fight of the Night-caliber show at UFC 229. Ferguson is looking to bring that same energy to the United Center in the third-to-last bout of the card, and anyone who knows anything about mixed martial arts knows that’s a recipe to an entertaining fight.
“If they’ve ever been to a dope-ass barbeque where they’re playing good music, and they have good drinks, good food, good vibes, good everything going, that’s what I want people to have and emulate as soon as I walk inside that Octagon,” he said.
“That’s what’s going to happen, man. It’s going to be a dance.”
Zac Pacleb is a writer and producer for UFC.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ZacPacleb