Tony Ferguson’s 2020 campaign saw him do something he had never done before – lose back-to-back fights.
Last year was a major disappointment for Ferguson, 37, who again missed a fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov that was scheduled for UFC 249, was outplayed and finished in the fifth round by Nurmagomedov substitute Justin Gaethje , then lost a one-sided decision by Charles Oliveira at UFC 256.
It’s not just that Ferguson had never lost back-to-back fights. Before Gaethje’s fight, Ferguson hadn’t lost any fights in eight years and 12 UFC appearances. Outside of Nurmagomedov, no lightweight has proven more indomitable than Ferguson over the past decade.
But in his opinion, a few setbacks are just what he needed to right the ship.
“Last year it had nothing to do with coaching or anything,” Ferguson said in an interview with Submission radio (transcription via Denis Shkuratov). “Seriously I take all the blame and all my blame on it but the two losses I had, I’m gonna be real with you guys, it was the best learning experience I probably could have ever had and the best thing was for me and my family.
“Running after a guy like Khabib, then trying to fight, then not fighting, then have temporary belts hanging in front of you, the game is what it is. You can’t get mad at the game. But the way you play the game is exactly your approach. And that’s what I did this year. I completely changed my approach.
Prior to his fight with Beneil Dariush at UFC 262 on May 15, Ferguson spends time with legendary boxing trainer Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles and he praised the environment there while ‘he’s getting ready for this lightweight, pivotal match.
Ferguson has talked about the need to have that “college mindset” in the past to explain the level at which one has to train to be an elite fighter, but with Roach and his company he’s stepping up his work even further.
“Instead of a college mindset, I went back to an Olympic mindset and started surrounding myself with people who are hungry like I am and how they have been for a long time,” Ferguson said. “And I started to find myself a lot easier at Wild Card, because that’s where I knew I could find that kind of grind.”
“You have amateurs, you have pros and you have Olympians,” he continued. “And you have a different take on everything, but the grind is still the same, it doesn’t change f * cking. And it’s good to be around that because of this structure. For a very long time, I had to structure myself and I did it, especially by balancing everything. What’s cool is being able to get my coaches and team’s perspective to be able to understand the game of martial arts as a whole. And that was really cool, man. I’m gonna be real, it’s a really cool take on how my coaches and training partners at Wild Card, and even my new training partners in general now, how the perspective that they brought the reps into. . Like I said, last year I had to care about the happiness of others before me, to make sure others were good.
When asked if he felt like his next fight was a ‘do-or-die’ scenario, Ferguson disagreed. He replied: “Absolutely not” and gave Oliveira credit for being the youngest and hungriest fighter, comparing Oliveira to Mr. T’s “Clubber Lang” character from the third. Rocky movie.
He also wanted to make it clear that he was in no way looking past Dariush, a veteran lightweight capable of generating highlights by both knockout and submission. It was that pervasive threat that got Ferguson excited about the game and what he could get out of it.
“He’s been playing the game for a long time,” Ferguson said of Dariush. “He’s in Huntington Beach with Rafael Cordeiro. He’s a left-hander, he’s very strong on his left side. He is very fond of mixing things up. So that’s why I shuffled my s * it up. Because I’m too one-dimensional. When you’re too one-dimensional, you start to level off. And as a master coach you should be able to achieve that, then figure that out, make changes, and then be able to bring your athlete back to the same program, which was not booming, but steadily increasing. . Paying attention to the little details will always do the best things. And Beneil and their team, they had so many people there to help them. They have like a Ultimate fighter team. I feel like I’m back The ultimate fighter, guys. It really is.
“I’m hungry like f * ck and I’m back,” Ferguson added. “I’m really back. And I mix really, really good, better than a f * cking mixer.
Watch Ferguson’s full interview with Submission radio here: