The UFC Lightweight rankings this year already look wildly different than they have for the last seven years now that MMA star Tony Ferguson is no longer a serious contender.
For the first time since 2015, Tony Ferguson is no longer featured in the UFC’s top 15 at 155 lbs. Veteran Drew Dober replaced Ferguson after earning a second round knockout over Bobby Green in the UFC’s final card of the year.
Ferguson’s departure from the upper echelon is a reminder of how cruel MMA can be. Fighters go from the top of the world to the bottom in a swift and violent decline. Recently, it happened to Anderson Silva, BJ Penn, and Tyron Woodley. Ferguson is the latest addition to this unfortunate group.
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‘El Cucuy’ vaulted into the lightweight top 15 with a submission win over Gleison Tibau in February of 2015. That was the 5th of what became a 12 fight winning streak that left every Ferguson opponent bloodied and bruised beyond recognition. He violently dominated the UFC’s marquee division for the better part of a decade. Despite this, a shot at the undisputed lightweight title eluded him, as did matchups with Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The UFC matched up Ferguson and Khabib an unfathomable five times, but the fight never came to fruition. Two of those scheduled bouts were for the undisputed lightweight title: in 2018 and 2020. After Ferguson defeated Kevin Lee for the interim belt, the showdown with the undefeated Nurmagomedov was set for April of 2018. But, the bout fell apart on fight week, when Ferguson tore his ACL by tripping on a wire after a TV interview.
Stoppage victories over Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone set Ferguson up for another undisputed title shot. He was set to challenge Khabib at UFC 249 in April of 2020. Unfortunately, everyone knows what happened next. Covid lockdowns forced the UFC to postpone the event, and Ferguson never received his undisputed title shot.
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When the UFC resumed in May of 2020, Ferguson stepped in for an interim title fight against Justin Gaethje. Gaethje battered Ferguson from pillar to post before finishing him by TKO in round five. So began Ferguson’s decline. He went on to lose lopsided decisions to Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush, and suffer a brutal knockout at the hands (or foot, to be exact) of Michael Chandler. Most recently, Ferguson lost by submission to Nate Diaz in a short notice welterweight bout.
Despite the rough patch, Ferguson insists he will continue fighting. After the Diaz loss, he shot down retirement in a conversation with ESPN.
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“When I feel like I’m ready to retire, I will retire. But right now, it’s a little bit different, a little more interesting,” Ferguson said. “With that being said, ‘DC’ and all these commentators that just keep repeating the same s**t over the years – because that’s what they want me to do. They want the public eye to see me like that and they want to see me as a quitter and so on and so forth.”
If Ferguson is going to keep fighting, hopefully it is against other veterans in “fun fights.” His days of title contention are over, and no one wants to see him in unfavorable matchups with young contenders on their way up. The lightweight division is full of killers, and unfortunately Ferguson is going to have a tough time competing with them.
What do you think Tony Ferguson should do?
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