Sporting nine consecutive victories inside the Octagon, Tony Ferguson has been on a roll for more than five years. Still, “El Cucuy” has yet to fight for a UFC title. That will change in October, though, when Ferguson will square off against Kevin Lee in a bid for the promotion’s lightweight belt.
The catch: the belt on the line will be the division’s interim title, and the opponent is ranked five spots beneath “El Cucuy”.
For Tony Ferguson, the reason why he hasn’t fought for the real bet much sooner is simple: his different persona that might or might not appeal to the masses in front of the TV. And that Ferguson will never sell himself as something that he’s not.
“Unfortunately, in our industry and in America, we like people that have accents, we like things that are different”, Ferguson recently told reporters at the UFC’s performance institute. “Which is not a bad thing because I love being different. But for me, I’m not going to try to sell something that’s not me. I’m going to keep being me, I’m going to keep being gritty, dorky, awesome, sexy and (expletive) amazing, (expletive) a badass hard worker, whatever you want to call it. I’m going to keep being me.”
Being him led Ferguson to nine consecutive victories since a decision loss to Michael Johnson in 2012 in a fight in which Ferguson broke his arm. Since then, “El Cucuy” has put names such as Edson Barboza, Josh Thomson and Rafael dos Anjos on his resume. Still, he doesn’t even know if he’ll be rewarded with a main event spot for his upcoming interim title fight against Kevin Lee at UFC 216 on October 7.
“So am I (the) main event? I don’t know, I don’t understand […]. All I’m focused on is Kevin Lee right now […]. What I’m keeping tabs on is what sounds better than 12-1? (Expletive) 13-1. What sounds better than nine consecutive victories? Ten. What’s my [winning] percentage right now? 92 Percent […]. I just beat Jon Jones, I just beat Conor McGregor, I beat Don Frye and all these other dudes. I’m doing something here but nobody is talking about it. So, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll let these numbers add up until I (expletive) earn that spot.”
Earning his spot is something that his next opponent hasn’t done, Ferguson feels like.
“This guy has got a big (expletive) mouth. And all I want to do is I want him to understand that you’ve got to earn where you go. You have to earn your place. You’re number seven, I’m number two.”
The trash talk between the two top lightweights has already started and will only ramp up over the next few weeks. Despite seeming to enjoy the verbal jabs, Ferguson said that he was actually hoping to get around the tough talk going into his next bout.
“I hope it is fun”, Ferguson said. “Straight up, I wanted to be cool, I wanted to be happy and have fun. I’m tired of that hate that’s out there, we’ve got way too much of that (expletive) out there. Let’s make this fun.”
And fun is what will likely enter the equation next month when two of the best lightweights on the planet square off in Las Vegas.
“You guys are lucky: You get five rounds out of this, not three […]. I can take him down and let him up, take him down and let him up and fight this guy technically. Then he’ll realize that the best person is the one in front of him, and then he’ll give me respect. But until then, we’re probably going to have beef between us.”