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From injury to Anthony Pettis, Ferguson plans to continue beating the odds


Tony Ferguson fights Anthony Pettis in the co-main event of UFC 229 this Saturday in Las Vegas, but perhaps the former interim lightweight champ already won his biggest fight this year.

“I think, more than anything else, I’m more excited to beat the challenge that my doctor set for me,” Ferguson said. “They told me six months to a year to heal and I looked at that and actually laughed at it when I saw it on paper. Step by step, I took it with a grain of salt and I beat this thing like it was a fight camp.”

Scheduled to face Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight crown in April, Ferguson instead watched “The Eagle” take the vacant belt with a win over Al Iaquinta after he suffered a torn knee ligament a little over a week out from the bout. Ferguson was crushed, but determined, and as he took his diagnosis as a challenge, he also used the time off to revamp his life in all areas.

“It was a freak accident that happened, I was so close to fight time, I was really in fight shape and I didn’t want to miss out on any opportunities,” he said. “There was fuel for the fire that I really needed to get my s**t together in my life. Even outside the Octagon I’ve grown so much as a man and as a family man, first and foremost. I stayed faith-driven and I really turned everything around. I haven’t had a drink since February because I like the way my body feels, and I took away a lot of bad habits and replaced them with good ones.”

And in record time, Ferguson was back and ready to resume his quest for glory at 155 pounds. It was a remarkable feat, one he documented with clips from his rehab and current camp, some of which made his fans cringe as he took unorthodox training methods to a new level. None of this fazed the 34-year-old.

“I realized my value,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t have people to reassure you about what you’re going after and what you’re doing, and I’ve had nothing but positive support from my family and my doctors and my team that gave me the reassurance that everything I was doing was right. I started having more fun with it and I think people are now starting to realize it. I haven’t changed; I’ve been consistent for this whole entire time.”

He also makes a it a point to say, “This is entertainment,” when it comes to his posts on social media.

“You want ‘El Cucuy’ to be a nice guy?” he laughs.

Of course not, and through it all, it seems like everything is clicking at the right time, because Ferguson has established himself as not only one of the top lightweights in the world – with the 10-fight winning streak to prove it – but one of the most unique individuals in the sport.

That combination makes stars, but that ability to walk his own path is something Ferguson always had.

“I’ve been competing for about 30 years in multiple sports,” he said. “That’s a long time. That’s enough time for three different people. And I thought, growing up, that everybody was doing the exact same thing, and I was completely wrong.”

But here he is, having the last laugh before the biggest fight of his career. He wins, and it may result in a crack at the winner of Saturday’s main event between Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor. That’s enough to put a nice dose pressure on anyone’s shoulders, but Ferguson is used to all that.

“What are you gonna do with the butterflies?” he asks. “How are you gonna channel it? It’s something different for everybody, but for me it’s always gonna be that. I’m a competitor for life and I love the art of competition – the getting ready, the butterflies, actually going out there and competing, then afterwards, relishing in the moment of what just happened. I’ve learned how to lose a long time ago and I learned to grow from it. So when you can crush the ego like that and actually keep moving forward and be able to better yourself, it’s just an amazing feeling, just to be able to say, ‘I did it.’ Regardless, win or lose, I can walk away from the table knowing I gave it a hundred percent effort. And you grow from it either way.”