Tony Ferguson still would like to fight again in 2020 — even if it’s in wrestling, grappling or boxing.
The UFC lightweight star said in a video interview with ESPN’s Ariel Helwani published Wednesday that he’d like to compete before the end of the year, provided he is adequately compensated. Ferguson fell to Justin Gaethje in an interim title fight at UFC 249 on May 9, the promotion’s first fight back after a nearly two-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The loss snapped a 12-fight winning streak and was Ferguson’s first defeat since 2012. But Ferguson said he’s in a better place than he was then and is “ready” for a return.
“I will be competing,” Ferguson said. “People will see me, one way or another, being active.”
Ferguson, who said he’d be open to other ventures like Chael Sonnen‘s Submission Underground or Wrestling Underground grappling events, was tied to an Oct. 24 contender bout with Dustin Poirier at UFC 254. That fight never came to fruition, however. Poirier said last month that he couldn’t come to terms with the UFC.
Ferguson told ESPN that he never really came to an official agreement with the UFC, either — for that fight or one with new signee and former Bellator champion Michael Chandler.
“[UFC president] Dana [White] wanted to speak for me,” Ferguson said. “He wanted to go out there and be like, ‘Tony is gonna take this fight.’ Bro, we’re not friends. I never said we were friends. It’s just business, right? I’m there when you need me. … Seriously, man, I’m a contractor, I do my thing. I love you, fam. I love the UFC and all that. But I’m not just a piece of meat out there.”
UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will be looking to unify his title against Gaethje at UFC 254 later this month. White told SI.com earlier this week that he’s attempting to get Ferguson another fight, and that if he wins that one, he could fight for the lightweight title against the winner of Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje.
A bout between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson has been booked five times and has fallen apart every time. The two were supposed to fight for the undisputed title at UFC 249, but Nurmagomedov left his training camp in California to go back to his home in Dagestan, Russia, during the pandemic after a miscommunication with the UFC about where the event might take place. Ferguson fought Gaethje instead.
“If Khabib does beat Gaethje, you get Tony Ferguson another fight, which we’re working on right now,” White told SI.com. “And hopefully that fight with Khabib happens because I know people want to see it.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fight fall apart as many times as those two. It almost scares me to make the fight again. What’s going to happen? An asteroid comes to Earth? That’s the level of bad this thing is.”
For his part, Ferguson said he’d like to fight Nurmagomedov because “the fans want to see it.” But Ferguson said he won’t wait for it to happen. Ferguson tweeted in support of Nurmagomedov when the champion’s father, Abdulmanap, died in July.
He doesn’t wish ill of his rival, but now “it’s back to business,” Ferguson said.
“I don’t wait on f—ing nobody,” Ferguson said. “Khabib, he can retire. He can do whatever … he wants. I’m not gonna hold his hand. I’ll be there for him as a brother in f—ing arms across the mat, but that’s all I can say. “
If there’s no clear path for him at lightweight, Ferguson could move up to welterweight or even middleweight for other potential matchups.
“I got [welterweight] and I’ve got the frame to go up to [middleweight],” Ferguson said. “I like to go out there and compete. Everybody forgets that I used to knock everybody out at 170.”
Ferguson believes he did the UFC a solid by stepping up early in the pandemic even when Nurmagomedov was no longer the opponent. He hopes to be recognized for that — from a monetary perspective, as well as a respect one. But he’s aware of the cold truth of the fight game.
“You’re only as good as your last fight,” Ferguson said.