No fighter wants to be labeled "The Gatekeeper."
The position sounds important. In a way, it is. Unfortunately, it can also be replaced with the less flattering synonymous term of "stepping stone."
On Sat., Sept. 24 in Denver, Colorado, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight Aaron Riley will welcome former Ultimate Fighter (TUF) competitor Tony Ferguson to the 155-pound division at UFC 135.
Ferguson will not only be fighting to prove he belongs in the UFC, but also that he's more than just the "angry drunk" character from a reality television series.
Riley had a few things to say to Heavy.com about Ferguson's antics on the show.
"The thing is, what I don't like is when people go on the show, act up, and they just get put in these higher profile fights and things," clarified Riley, adding, "I just wanted to make it clear that I do think that the guys from TUF, if they get their wins in the UFC, then they do deserve to be in there."
Riley went on to state his aversion to the quick rise to fame some of the TUF fighters receive, possibly less for their actual ability and more for their bravado and television persona. It's not the first time a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter has voiced concerns of this nature.
"I just seems kind of unfair when you've got guys that are boiling away in the gym, day and night - I know guys that have other jobs besides fighting, they're trying to make it into the big time. They don't have time to do all that other stuff - that acting up; they're too busy just working hard, so it's just kind of nice to see that that doesn't always work out being the bad guy."
Saturday's match-up will spotlight a very interesting match-up between a veteran fighter and a rising up-and-comer. Riley has 43 MMA bouts under his belt. Ferguson has 13. Interestingly enough, there is only a three year age difference between the two athletes (Riley is 30 and Ferguson is 27).
Both fighters are coming off a win. Both have something to prove.
The strategies of the respective fighters is not a secret. In all likelihood, Ferguson will want to keep things on the feet, whereas Riley will probably look for the takedown as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
"Riley vs. Ferguson" will be one of two preliminary fights featured on Spike TV, after the Facebook prelims and directly before the pay-per-view (PPV) main card begins.
What say you, Maniacs? Is Ferguson just another "bad boy" getting air time for his bad behavior? Do you expect Riley to get the win and prove he's nobody's stepping stone?