- Tony Ferguson has established himself as one of the best athletes in the lightweight division.
- Ferguson’s latest win, a doctor’s stoppage over Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, punctuates his claim to be next in line to fight for Khabib Nurmagomedov’s title.
- But the UFC president Dana White is failing to amplify Ferguson’s cause sufficiently and has promoted the idea of a Nurmagomedov rematch against Conor McGregor all year.
- Making McGregor a title contender even though he has not won a fight for almost three years would make a complete mockery of the rankings and the sport.
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Conor McGregor‘s status as a contender makes a mockery of the UFC rankings, and bona fide lightweight challengers like Tony Ferguson who could miss out on lucrative title shots against the champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
McGregor has not won a UFC fight since 2016 when he carried his trademark swagger into the Octagon and obliterated Eddie Alvarez.
McGregor dominated Alvarez with quick-fire punch combinations, bruising front kicks, and left crosses that landed with such unrelenting accuracy that all Alvarez could do was fall to the floor, repeatedly, until he was beaten for good in the second round. “He didn’t just do it, he did it flawlessly,” the UFC commentator Joe Rogan said during the live broadcast at UFC 205 in New York. “Incredible, incredible performance.”
This was when McGregor was at the peak of his powers when he became the simultaneous champion of the featherweight and lightweight divisions.
But he has been trending downward rapidly ever since.
McGregor was stopped on his feet by Floyd Mayweather in a landmark cross-over, boxing-rules contest in 2017, then humbled by Nurmagomedov when he got dropped and stopped by the Russian wrestler in the fourth round of a wild fight the following year.
In that time, Tony Ferguson has beaten Kevin Lee, Anthony Pettis,and, most recently, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone on June 8, punctuating his reputation as one of the most monstrous mixed martial artists in the division, and an athlete who could challenge Nurmagomedov in a potential all-time classic.
Ferguson’s most recent victory highlighted many of his greatest strengths – precise punching, an in-your-face tenacity, and an ability to fight at a merciless tempo thanks to his extraordinary endurance.
The fight against Cerrone was Ferguson’s 12th successive win, a run that stretches back to 2012. He has submitted opponents and knocked out others in what has been an unbeaten seven-year exhibition of elite jiu-jitsu and expert striking.
Ferguson warrants a shot at the winner of September’s title fight between defending champ Nurmagomedov, and the number one contender Dustin Poirier.
But McGregor, third in UFC’s lightweight rankings, has not won a fight for almost three years and could get a title shot before Ferguson, ranked second, who is undefeated in seven.
ESPN reporter Brett Okamoto recently asked White about Ferguson, and whether his gauntlet run of wins trumps McGregor’s popularity.
White replied by saying he didn’t know how he’d find the balance between satisfying Ferguson, which would be a rankings fight for Nurmagomedov, and pleasing McGregor, a per-view-view (money) fight.
This follows comments to Bloody Elbow last week.
White said McGregor “wants the rematch” and “feels he deserves the rematch before anybody else.”
Earlier in the year, White said McGregor and Nurmagomedov should fight in 2019 because “a lot of people want to see [it.]”
The fact that McGregor is even in the title conversation makes a complete mockery of the sport when he has not achieved what Ferguson has done since 2016.
If a rematch between Nurmagomedov and McGregor were negotiated, the winner would be clear before the opening bell – it would be Nurmagomedov, again. The first bout was not even close. The only round McGregor had a modicum of success was the third, but it was otherwise a shutout for Nurmagomedov, who made him tap for good measure.
McGregor needs to evolve as a mixed martial artist, secure a comeback opponent, win well, and showcase a new set of skills – ones that show us he might be competitive against the more well-rounded fighters in the division.
Until he does that, he cannot be taken seriously as a legitimate title challenger.
‘It will be criminal’ if Ferguson doesn’t get a title shot
Ferguson is ranked above McGregor on merit, and a bout between himself and Nurmagomedov would be tough to predict accurately. Ferguson’s ground game is superior to McGregor’s, and his striking is far more varied. He would give Nurmagomedov more things to think about, and more challenges to overcome.
Ferguson wants the title shot next. According to MMA Fighting, he said Nurmagomedov “needs an a– whooping.” He added: “I want to keep winning. What sounds better than 12 [wins in a row]? 13 … it sounds a hell of a lot better with a title shot in that 13th victory.”
The industry seems to agree. Chamatkar Sandhu, a fight reporter formerly at ESPN and USA Today, tweeted that “it’ll be nothing short of criminal” if Ferguson does not face the winner of Nurmagomedov and Poirier next.
And Sandhu is right. It would be a crime against Ferguson, the rankings system, and the sport in general.
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