Tony Ferguson: Knocking out Ramsey Nijem 'was just like hitting the mitts'

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

For The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 13 winner Anthony Ferguson, practice really did make perfect.

"The Boogeyman" showcased some tremendous striking during his stint on the show, resulting in four consecutive knockouts over the likes of Justin Edwards, Ryan McGillivray, Chuck O'Neil and eventually Ramsey Nijem on The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale

With the victory, he steps into a crowded welterweight division but he's ready to make his mark. 

The Team Lesnar fighter discussed his background, his experience on the show and how his striking became so fluid on Pro MMA Radio this week.

Find out how he earned his "El Cucuy" nickname after the jump.

Pro MMA Radio: First time on the show, you've got to tell us what the nickname means and where it comes from.

Tony Ferguson: I'm actually from Michigan. I took Spanish when I was little. When I moved to California and I started fighting, everyone's a little bit Spanish speaking especially at the gym that I trained out of. Next door there was actually a little church there and this kid, he would come over, stick his head inside the gym and I was training, I guess I had a scary face or something. I was lifting weights and after that he kinda got scared the trainer made fun of it. They called me "El Cucuy" which stands for "The Boogeyman." 

Pro MMA Radio: Before we get to the more current stuff, give people a little bit of your background in wrestling. A lot of people coming into the fight thought it was striker vs. wrestler and Ramsey's gonna have a big wrestling advantage but you actually had a pretty significant wrestling background before you ever got into the house.

Tony Ferguson: I know. They called me out on it and that's why I had to make a point of it. You don't just call someone a wrestler, man, because what they're gonna do is go out there and do what they do best, they're gonna wrestle. My thing was, I knew I was a striker but I wasn't a striker by first hand. I earned that right by working hard inside the gym but I've always been a wrestler since I was six. So it was easy for me to go out there and it was easy for me and Brock to relate to each other. He was always a wrestler since he was little. He knows what he has to do and doesn't bring emotion into that fight either. It's strictly technique and you can't get mad. You just have to hurt this person. My coach always told me when we were going out there, he didn't give me more instructions once I was inside that cage. I turned around and Ramsey was getting his thing done and he was like, "hurt this man, Tony. Go out there and hurt him." I never want to hurt anybody obviously, don't want to just beat somebody up just because but you know the one thing is it's a competition.

Pro MMA Radio: Where did you wrestle and what level did you reach with that wrestling?

Tony Ferguson: I did the freestyle thing for a little while. I never got good at the Greco Roman. I went through high school and varsity lettered, went to college, Central Michigan and didn't wrestle out there. It was a learning experience. I went back to community college at Muskingum Community and I wrestled there. I wrestled open in a couple tournaments. They're really good but I didn't really commit to a team. It was kinda weird. I didn't grow up with a big team, we had like eight guys and they were kind of new. When you go to these big teams, it was cool but sometimes the coaching wasn't that great so that's when I found Grand Valley. They brought me in there to go out and wrestle with some guy named Jeremiah Gibson and I ended up going in there and doing really well.  These guys at there time were in the NCWA, the National Collegiate Wrestling Association and not a lot of people know that, it's a struggling program but we have a lot of talent. What it is is equal number sports. We competed against some big names. I won nationals at 155 for Grand Valley and I bulked up two weight classes because I accidentally hurt one of our guys and we had a void at one weight. I said, "screw it" and I bulked up to 184 wrestling where I'd have five pounds to give up and that's after a full stomach of Gatorade and Subway. I did really well. It was the work ethic I learned over there from David Mills and the whole Grand Valley program. Lot of hard work, lot of drilling, principals, wrestling by the numbers. They pushed us really hard. My motto was, "never take a knee in that gym." When you have a whole team with the same work ethic and traveling to these places, you bond pretty well as a team. It gets you through some crap and we got pretty hungry. I still wear it on my left hand the national champion team ring. 

Pro MMA Radio: You mentioned bouncing around weight classes in college and you were actually willing to bounce around weight classes for The Ultimate Fighter. This was actually your third time trying out. You tried out for season 11 which is middleweights and season 12 which was lightweights and you finally made it at welterweight. Tell me about those experiences and what was different this time that allowed you to get on the show.

Tony Ferguson: The first time was cool because I had nothing to lose and I knew I wasn't gonna get on the show anyways. I went in there and had fun. Eddie Mendez, my buddy is a big 185-pounder and we went in there and looked good and made it to the second round. In the third round they told me, "you're too small," and the second time I traveled over to Charleston. I had just beat David Gardner and I was feeling really good and took a flight to get over there and my flight left without me at my connecting flight in DC. I ended up driving about seven and a half hours from DC to Charleston and I was going, don't want to say I was breaking the law but I was going pretty fast and it was at midnight. I had to be ready in the morning and I had a shitty first round and was thinking that you spent all that money to get there but I forgot about that one win I had. I just started thinking that I still had 170 pounds coming up. I thought about it and realized that it would be a lot harder if I didn't make it at 170 pounds which was coming up. I took it with a grain of salt, took a couple more fights and I fought Brock Jardine right before the show. That was the same guy that was actually in Ramsey's corner, the same guy who was his roommate. Irony right?

Pro MMA Radio: You've mentioned that you could make 155 in the past. Do you favor one class over the other because now you're looking to build your career?

Tony Ferguson: You know, I'd like to stay at 170 because that's where the tough SOB's are. Everybody wants that 170 spot. When I was at 165 in college, that's where all the toughest guys are at. We're agile, we're strong and we're not the biggest in the world but we're technical and we're quick. We got all of it in one and it's kind of nice to allow people into this 155 and 170 bracket. I'd love to see myself at 170 because people say, "why don't you go down?" and I say, "why don't I just get bigger?"

Pro MMA Radio: Let's talk about your time in the house a bit. You're first fight is Justin Edwards and he's giving you a tough time. Then you get the upkick and end up knocking him out. That was on your birthday. What did you learn from that fight?

Tony Ferguson: Aww man, don't go on your back. I'm an animal on my back too but I hate being on my back. I've only gotten stuck there once or twice in my life. When I was really young and in high school. That sucked, I never wanted that to happen again. I know in jiu-jitsu you have to be calm on your back but that just taught me to be a little more cautious on your feet and don't get taken down. I learned a lot about that and that's how I was able to blast my next two opponents standing after that.

Pro MMA Radio: You brought up Ramsey's comments before the fight and when I saw most of his pre-fight interviews. He was very vocal about not liking you and that he kinda didn't feel right about you from the beginning and that you showed your true colors. It seemed like there was a lot of personal in this fight for him. Did that motivate you and were you surprised by that?

Tony Ferguson: I didn't even worry about it. I didn't look at it honestly. I got comments from other people though. The only thing that got to me was like a little kid would say, "hey I lost respect for you." Something like that would hurt my feelings but if a fighter says it, I don't really care. Like when I used to wrestle in Michigan, I'd go up to the wrestling charts and be like, "hey, I wonder who I have next." My dad would say, "why are you worrying about that? Go do you, go wrestle, quit looking at the charts." So that's what I did. I quit looking at everything else and I brought my game. I knew exactly what he wasn't gonna expect which was my wrestling game. Coaching with Marty, if I hadn't worked hard he would have sent me home. At first I was puking, I was so out of shape I'm not even playing how many times I couldn't hold my breakfast down. Marty knows exactly what he's doing. Brock wouldn't trust him as his coach otherwise. He trusted in me and I trusted in them and I trusted in the program.

Pro MMA Radio: So you made it to the finale and you ended up hooking up with Brock and his team for training. Talk about  that experience and getting ready for them and how that all came about.

Tony Ferguson: It was structured man. Those guys were great role models. Lot of people, it wasn't in the city so it wasn't so crazy. I didn't have to worry about viewing parties and my girl ran them for me. She was in downtown Venturas. All the people that meant a lot to me showed up to them but I wasn't there because I was out training and doing what I needed to do. Wake up in the morning, eat train, after work, hike or do whatever and if you were lucky you didn't have to workout that night. These guys were traveling like two hours to come out and kick my butt. You had guys like Nik Lentz, Jacob Volkmann and two time state champs from South Dakota. They came out every day to work with me, it was a family just like the Death Clutch family.  Brock took real good care of me and I didn't have to worry about anything for the first time in my life. We did what we had to do to do what was right. I came out with four TKO's out of this whole thing and I guess it's absurd but I'm thinking about what I could do better. 

Pro MMA Radio: It's just one week since you won The Ultimate Fighter. Has it sunk in? What's this week been like for you?

Tony Ferguson: I've been eat a lot of food (laughs). A lot of red meat. I've been kicking it with my girl because I didn't get a chance to spend a lot of time with her this year. It's nice to actually be able go on a date with her now. She makes everything easy. She was my personal secretary making sure everything got taken care of. 

Pro MMA Radio: I wanna talk to you about your striking. You seem incredibly comfortable with your striking and a lot of guys with a wrestling background aren't. Did the striking come easy to you? Was it something you picked up right away? Talk about that transition from wrestler to striker for you.

Tony Ferguson: Well I always watched a lot of movies with I was little. I wanted to be that Bruce Lee guy or a kickboxer or boxer. Everyone wanted to be like those karate movies. It started off like that when I was 15 and I bought a speed bag. It actually helped my hand speed for my wrestling with my snap-downs and ankle picks. It gave me a special kind of strength inside my muscles and I liked that. I've accumulated all kinds of things over the years and me and my buddies were just like any other kids growing up. My hands started getting better once I started getting sick of getting hit. I didn't want to take anybody down, I wanted to stand toe to toe, just like the movies. Step and move and popping, knocking a guy down like Muhammad Ali, standing over an opponent going, "holy crap that did just happen." I worked really hard, day in and day out. I put in four hours a day in straight stand up and I'd go to lunch and then go back to grappling. 

Pro MMA Radio: Did you know as soon as you landed that shot on Ramsey that it was a winner? Some guys tell me they can't feel it and others say they know right away.

Tony Ferguson: Oh man, it was crazy. I got excited. I jumped up like a million times. I was speeding around. It was just like "Boom!" left hook and I was shifting my feet in enjoyment and then I blasted him once on the ground. That right hand was there for the third punch since it was a three punch combo. It was a two-three and I walked up and it was supposed to be right there for timing and I waited but I just "Boom!" blasted him on the ground. It was just like hitting the mits.

So what do you think Maniacs?

Can Ferguson make an impression in the welterweight division? Or will he join the middle of the pack like the most recent TUF winners?

Sound off!

For more on Tony Ferguson, check out the replay of MMAmania.com's exclusive presentation of Pro MMA Radio by clicking here

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