MANILA, Philippines – For Tony Ferguson, the “real” lightweight title will be at stake in UFC 249 on Saturday, May 9 (Sunday, May 10, Philippine time) at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
Ferguson (26-3) will face Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje (21-2) for the UFC interim lightweight title, although originally, the No.1 contender was set to brawl against defending lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0),
Nurmagomedov backed out last month, saying he was not prepared to travel amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The 36-year old Ferguson trash talked the Russian champion for withdrawing and said the interim belt is the “real” crown.
“I’m not worried about a piece of hardware, it’s more than a paperweight, but I have the real title,” Ferguson said during the UFC 249 virtual media day. “Khabib didn’t want to fight, he ran away like a dog with his tail between his legs.
“Same thing with Conor (McGregor). ‘I’m next, I’m next,’ that’s what everybody said but where are they at? Obviously, they’re back home trying to quarantine and obviously we’re here trying to cross quarantine.”
This was the fifth time that the Khabib-Ferguson bout was canceled. All previous 4 matchups starting in 2015 also got called off due to injury and health concerns.
For now, Ferguson said he’s just focusing on the fight instead of thinking when he’d get a hand on Nurmagomedov.
“To me that guy (Khabib) doesn’t even exist,” said Ferguson. “My hardcore understanding exactly is I do have the belt. He just got what the hell he’s got.”
Not fighting for legacy
Despite the tough attitude and champion mentality, Ferguson said he’s not fighting for his legacy.
“I don’t fight for legacy,” he said. “I fight for my faith, family and friends. I’m the ultimate fighter in this tournament. If you wanna be the best, you have to be the best.”
Ferguson has won his last 12 bouts and remains undefeated since 2012. But the top contender says he already stopped paying attention to his winning streak and would reather take his fights one step at a time.
And even with his dominant streak, Ferguson isn’t looking down on Gaethje, who won his last 3 bouts via knockout.
“I got nothing for the kid, (Gaethje) is awesome,” Ferguson said. “He’s got ‘The Highlight’ for his nickname for a reason. He’s a tough game opponent.”
Setting aside the praises, Ferguson is ready to claim the title and annihilate Gaethje like his previous opponents.
“Anytime I fought an opponent, they just break mentally and physically and spiritually, they just can’t handle it outside the octagon,” said Ferguson.
“(Gaethje) is not gonna be anything different from these guys. I’m not gonna hold back – punches, kicks, knees and elbows – I’m bringing out the blaze for this fight.” – Rappler.com