Is Tony Ferguson the hero we deserve?

Harry Kettle Harry Kettle

A lot of mixed martial artists tend to have criticisms thrown their way for a multitude of reasons – whether it be that they’re too cocky, they’re overrated or perhaps they just aren’t all too nice outside of the cage. Tony Ferguson, on the other hand, seems to have always been public enemy number one for an exceptionally bizarre reason: he’s too weird.

In any other walk of life that’d seem like a ridiculous statement to make, and even more so when we’re talking about a professional sportsman. It’s almost as if the promotion itself has been forced to take a step back and analyse things, too, with Dana White even admitting to not really understanding the every day life of “El Cucuy.”

At his core, Tony Ferguson may well be a mixed martial artist and nothing more, but it feels like there’s more to his story than that. We’re talking about a guy who calls himself The Bogeyman, has one of the most unconventional styles in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and is riding one of the best win streaks in all of MMA – in the toughest division.

Oh, and did we mention that he completely blew out his knee and made an almost full recovery within six months using unbelievably unorthodox training methods?

Because that’s the word that is best used to describe him: unorthodox, and as we mentioned earlier, just a little bit weird. That should be a trait we can all relate to, regardless of what his profession happens to be, and yet it tends to be used against him.

He’s one of those fighters that comes along every so often and just seems to defy logic. From his fighting style to his personality everything about him seems like it should be false, but once you hear him speak even just for five minutes, you’ll learn that he is who he says he is.

Go back and watch his season of The Ultimate Fighter for proof of that. This isn’t a character he has forged for himself and this is no gimmick because he’s better than that. He doesn’t need to manufacture what he says or does in order to reach the top, because his abilities inside the Octagon have done that for him.

Now it’s fair to say that we’re at a bit of a crossroads at this moment in time regarding the Lightweight Championship, with some folks saying that Conor McGregor deserves a rematch whereas others believe Tony is the rightful next challenger for Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Of course, the Conor rematch will do some good numbers on pay per view, but the story for the Khabib/Tony bout writes itself. With the UFC 229 fight it genuinely felt like we had two ‘heels’ to borrow a term from the world of professional wrestling, but in this instance, there can be only one true ‘babyface’ as it were – and that’s “El Cucuy.”

MMA fans need someone to believe in, and we’re not sure it’s the unbeaten Russian who starts fights outside of the cage. Sure, he’s a fantastic athlete, but that doesn’t really compare to the sheer emotion of Tony Ferguson breaking down in tears after coming through an absolute war with Anthony Pettis.

Tony just needs that one big push from the UFC, and while they committed to that back at UFC 223, they shouldn’t be discouraged by how ‘cursed’ this fight with Khabib seems to be.

Once in a lifetime performers are rare, and Tony Ferguson falls into that category. Just because he happens to be aligned with Khabib and Conor doesn’t mean he should suffer, because he’s done playing third fiddle. This is his time, and the fans need to appreciate that.