Tony Ferguson is still disappointed he and Khabib Nurmagomedov never got to throw hands inside the Octagon.
The highly-anticipated Lightweight match up has gone down in the mixed martial arts (MMA) history books as the most cursed pairing of all time. Scheduled to compete on five separate occasions, one reason or another led to the cancelation of Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson. Twice for each were injury-related with the fifth and final coming thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ultimately, Ferguson went on to collide with Justin Gaethje for the interim 155-pound title in May 2020, resulting in his lengthy 12-fight win streak coming to an end via fifth round technical knockout (watch highlights). Gaethje then went onto battle the undisputed Lightweight kingpin in what was his retirement fight (details here). Meanwhile, Ferguson, 39, has lost five straight fights (29-5 overall record) since he clashed with “The Highlight.”
“I know when Khabib left, a little part of me left with that,” Ferguson told The MMA Hour. “It kind of sucked a little bit because we’ve always had that, I don’t want to say negative energy, but that hype that was built around that. Then when that disappeared and the pandemic hit and the f—king team left and then just a whole bunch there was nothing else left for me kind of. Except what I told myself is I wanted to compete. I wanted to compete enough so that way maybe possibly, win or lose, Khabib would come back.”
While Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson was never meant to be inside the Octagon, “El Cucuy” discussed how they nearly came to blows as coaches on the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF).
“We almost coached on The Ultimate Fighter,” Ferguson said. “The season where [Michael] Chandler and [Conor] McGregor coached. We were verbally agreed to have coached. I think that was like in November and a couple of months passed and he didn’t even go corner [Islam] Makhachev, which is one thing, and so he had a lot of different things going on in his life where he had to kind of second guess himself and not want to come back. So, that was like another bummer. It was like, ‘F—k. Okay, really?’”
The aftermath left Ferguson admittedly angry and frustrated after everything each went through to try and make the fight happen as many times as it was supposed to. However, Ferguson knew he needed to make some changes and let certain things go, including that anger and frustration.
Ferguson returns to action, looking to snap his six-fight losing skid against Paddy Pimblett at UFC 296 in Las Vegas on Dec. 16, 2023. As for Nurmagomedov, the spirit of that rivalry still has a flame burning inside the former interim titleholder.
“I still don’t want to shake the f—kers hand. He’s still fat in my book,” Ferguson said. “Conor is still a f—king little b—ch, too. At the end of the day, there’s another day, the next day. So, that’s preparing for whatever’s going to be coming next.”
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