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Tony Ferguson Changing Up His Approach After Tough Setbacks

Former interim UFC lightweight champion Tony Ferguson is far from done competing inside the Octagon.

Ferguson is working to totally revamp his style, as he told “Submission Radio” recently.

Why his last two losses were “the best learning experience” and how he’s “completely changed” his approach

“Last year, it had nothing to do with coaches or anything else. Seriously, I take all the fall and all my blame on it, but the two losses that I had, I’m gonna be real with you guys, it was the best learning experience I probably could’ve ever had and the best thing that was for me and my family.”

“Chasing after a guy like Khabib and then trying to get the fight and then not getting the fight and then having interim belts dangled in front of you, the game is what it is. You can’t get mad at the game. But how you play the game is exactly your approach. And that’s what I did for this year. I completely changed my approach.”

“When I had to take a look at the drawing board and the numbers weren’t making sense, I had to do something about it. And I did. I made a very business big boy decision.”

“Where we’re at right now, I’m hungry as fuck. And I haven’t had the love for the game in a minute. I’m gonna be real, I haven’t even sparred yet, but I’m getting that fucken hunger just being around it over at Wild Card.”

On bringing in Freddie Roach and training at Wild Card boxing gym

“Instead of a varsity mentality I went back to an Olympic mentality, and I started to surrounding myself around people that are hungry how I am and how they’ve been for a long time. And I started to find myself over at Wild Card a lot easier, because that’s where I knew that I could find that kind of grind.”

“The structure that I’ve found over at Wild Card boxing with coach Freddie Roach, and then you have Marvin Somodio and then you have coach Pepe Reily and my teammates. It’s very structured and it’s very cool how they have it, and it’s awesome, man. It’s not worried about what song’s next on the radio – not that it was the case ever anywhere, but it’s really cool, man. You’ve got amateurs, you’ve got pros and you’ve got Olympians. And you have a different look at everything, but the grind is still the same, it does not fucken change. And it’s nice to be around that because of that structure. For a long time I had to structure myself. And I did that, especially with balancing everything. What’s cool is being able to have the perspective of my coaches and my team to be able to understand the game of martial arts as a whole. And it’s really nice, man. I’m gonna be real, it’s a really cool approach at how my trainers and training partners at Wild Card, and even in general my new training partners now, how the perspective, they’ve been getting the reps in. Like I said, last year I had to care about a lot of other people’s happiness before myself, to make sure other people were good. Getting sports back on, making sure the business and everything else, my sponsors and everything were secure, and making sure that this year we were gonna make the numbers better. Making sure that the UFC, if they needed a hole filled in for a gap, I’m there, I’m clutch. I’m Death Clutch.”

On training with GSP

“I try not to sample from too many people. You gotta remember, Georges was at 170 pounds when I was knocking everybody out at 170 pounds. So, when I got to see Georges, it was a humbling moment. It was like, oh man, you’re the mark I was going after, you’re that target. Or it was a completely different approach in respect to being able to be around somebody – now everybody’s talking about GOAT, right? I’m always talking about BOAT. Which is best of all time. They call me the BOAT. And he’s a BOAT too. He’s a good dude. He’s very humble. His approach to the game is very bushido-like. Like a code. There’s no real code for it, but it’s out there and it’s a gentleman chivalry type of thing. And it was nice to be around [him], especially around an academy like Wild Card. And I didn’t really practice with him, but got to talk to him for a little bit. And like I said, he’s all class. And the same thing with Ben Askren. Ben’s got a fight coming up. Didn’t really get to train with Ben, but got to be able to be able to talk to him a little bit, which is really nice, man. And it’s a teamwork thing, man. And it’s really cool, cause superheroes don’t really hang out with superheroes, unless it’s really necessary.”

Admitting he was too “one-dimensional” and why he likes the Beneil Dariush fight

It’s a great fight. Let’s talk about Beneil. The guy’s an up and comer. Not up and comer, an OG dude. He’s been doing the game for a long time. He’s over at Huntington beach with Rafael Cordeiro. He’s a southpaw, he’s very strong on his left side. He’s very game in mixing it up. So, that’s why I’ve been mixing my shit up. Because I got too one-dimensional. When you get too one dimensional, you start to plateau. And as a master trainer, you should be able to realize that and then understand that, make some changes, and then be able to get your athlete back on the same program, which was, not peaking, but steadily increasing. Paying attention to the smaller details are always going to make for the best things. And Beneil and their team, they got a shitload of people over there helping them out. They got like an Ultimate Fighter team. It feels like I’m back on the Ultimate Fighter, guys. It really does.”

“I’m hungry as fuck and I’m back. I’m really back on it, man. And I’m mixing it up really, really well, better than a fucken blender.”

“He’s a good fighter, man. I’m gonna be real, he’s solid. You can’t overlook Beneil. I’m fucken strong. I’m strong as fuck though. I’m solid too. The other day I was pushing a truck back and forth down my fucken alley the other day, and my buddy’s like… I didn’t even stop, it was crazy. I’m on a different level right now. I’m staying consistent with it. Beneil, he’s going to be doing his thing, man. I guarantee you he’s going to be working his ass off. But it’s not gonna change what I’m doing. I’m back on him like how before everybody knew me before Ultimate Fighter. Like, you guys didn’t know shit.”

On not feeling like this is do-or-die for him, and Charles Oliveira not being ready for a five-round fight against Michael Chandler

“Absolutely not. I went up against one of the strongest grapplers in the division in a Charles Oliveira. Gave an up-and-coming kid that was hungry as fuck, kind of like a Mr. T., the chance. He’s very eager in trying to getting the armbar in the first round. He’s not ready for a five-round against Chandler.”

On only being able to train BJJ for five hours leading into his fight with Oliveira

“I trained for five hours for Oliveira in Jiu Jitsu because of COVID and limited ability for people, and it was just crazy. Just dealing with certain shit, dude. And during fight week we were supposed to meet up with my Jiu Jitsu team, and we didn’t even get a chance to.”

“I’m gonna be real, that’s how when I started thinking about my reps, and I started thinking about other things. It’s not smart. Don’t listen. I’m a black belt when it comes to it and that’s what it comes to, is that my training with 10th Planet and how confident I was to keep my back to the mat and understand where I was. I waited for three rounds for that D’arce. And if my arm wasn’t – I’m not gonna use an excuse – but I keep thinking about it, I have a screenshot of me hitting the D’arce on him. And it slipped out cause I didn’t go full D’arce like I did on Edson Barboza. I doubted myself because of my arm. And I should have went for it, and I didn’t drill it and I didn’t rep it enough. But I waited. I’m patient like I’m fishing, like a fisherman. I went out there and that dude rushed it. That’s why I say in the confidence, talking about those rounds and hopefully they do [help me]. You know what I mean? I got overly excited in the fight and lost my footing. And like I said, I’m glad I lost my fight. But when he was trying to be like all, ‘thanks for the fight’ and this, I told him, I’ll see you soon, dude. So, I grabbed him by the lat and I walked him around the cage. Oh yeah, you beat me? No, mother fucker. What? So, people say you dominate cause they don’t understand Jiu Jitsu and because they don’t understand MMA? In mount right, am I really worried about him passing my guard? No. Fuck no. You saw this with Kevin Holland, right? He flipped off of the cage. There’s 100 percent to 90 percent escape rate off of the cage, rather than an open fucking back take where an armbar’s 50-50. Do the math right then and there.”

On firing a corner man, but finding his love for the sport again after these two losses

“After the fight I immediately went back to the drawing board. I went back to the hotel and started hitting mitts or Thai pads and trying to figure it out. I ended up firing one of my corner men because he big-leagued one of my other guys. It was crazy, cause he ended up taking a spot when he wasn’t supposed to. And going into the second round I’m like, what the fuck are you doing in here? That wasn’t the plan. And it sucked, cause it was one of my guys I counted the most. But you know, rules are rules. So, I mean, maybe we’ll be able to work again and things, but that’s all. And going into the second round, I was winning that one going into it, except for the fucking illegal kick. But what are you gonna do? I didn’t see his knee on the ground. I didn’t mean it. But you have to take it. You can’t get mad. Going in there too, his hands ended up in my eyes. It was funny, right? And he had an opportunity to be able to gouge a little bit more or let it go, and he didn’t, he didn’t gouge. And he moved, and I was like, oh that’s cool. And I was in the same situation when I was on bottom putting my hands right there, and my hands right there. And I didn’t mean it. And I was like, oh shit, my bad. And he was like, that’s cool. And it was a really fun match for me. I had found, from all the damage I took in the Gaethje fight and from the arm damage that I took in the Oliveira fight, I have found my love for the sport again.”

On Nate Diaz

“We all know who really sold the card out. We don’t have to name names, but it definitely wasn’t Nate’s punk ass. You know what I mean? Like, seriously, just come out of nowhere like a fucking turtle. I love it. But when it comes to it, it doesn’t matter who sold it out or what. It’s awesome to be a part of a card that’s actually going to fucking be exciting. So, shit talking or not, gawking or whatever you want to call it, the fans are gonna be there. They’re gonna be loud as fuck.”

On calling Nate Diaz a “bitch” on social media

“Oh, he always has [been my bitch]. It’s just some shit talk, just some light banter, man. I got nothing against the dude. He’s a good solid dude. But when it comes down to the scrap game, it’s like come on, put ‘em up, put ‘em up.”

“Dude, I’ve been around a bunch of Dagestanis trying to surround my family. I’ve been around a bunch of shit in the fight game. I’m gonna be even real, even Nate trying to call my name. I held up my hand up saying not now Nate, I’m busy, and went off to an interview.”

“I got nothing against the kid. He’s Mexican, so I got a lot of love for the dude. We just happen to be in different divisions. But were different weight classes, so I shouldn’t fucken trip too much.”

On being offered Kamaru Usman and GSP for Chael Sonnen’s SUG

“I’m gonna be real through, man, I’ hungry. And 170, 155, it doesn’t matter what weight. They offered me Kamaru Usman for Chael Sonnen’s Submission Underground. I’m like, is the belt on the line? What the fuck? They offered me GSP at 170 too. And it’s just different. And we wanted to wrestle Jordan Burrows, but he was obviously getting ready for some stuff, and I’m game for a lot of different things.”

On Khabib Nurmagomedov not being the person going back and forth with him on Twitter

“That was his manager, bro. You know his manager Ali Abdelaziz runs his social media accounts and a lot of his other associates. I mean, when is Khabib gonna swear? Huh? Khabib don’t swear. So, Ali Abdelaziz fucking punked him out. Fucken gave himself up. So, I’m really good at this game.”

If he still feels like the Khabib fight could happen one day

“It doesn’t matter what fucken people are saying, his pop said that the fight to make is myself and Khabib. So, whether it’s chess, whether it’s checkers, whether it’s a game of cards or whatever the fuck it is. An MMA fight makes the most sense because the only fight that he ever wanted was this fight. But he would have to have his shit together.”

“He’s a good fighter when it comes down to it. He puts a lot of reps in and he does a lot of stuff. He’s doing the coaching thing, but I did the coaching thing too. The kid takes after… I’m not saying like he looks up to me, but it’s cool to be able to see these fighters, you know what I mean? It’s different. When I started coaching, I started to see Khabib coach, and he’s stepping up, dude. When you don’t see anybody doing it, it’s kind of like, oh shit, and then you have to just kind of fucking do it, be the leader, do it, and then draw that other people are starting to do it and take it to another level. That makes you want to take it another level.”

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