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Tony Ferguson stands in his corner before his lightweight fight against Bobby Green during the UFC 291 event at Delta Center on July 29, 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Athletes

Tony Ferguson Will Always Be “El Cucuy”

Recap The Legendary Run Of Former Interim UFC Lightweight Champion Tony Ferguson As We Await His UFC 296: Edwards vs Covington Bout With Paddy Pimblett

For years, there was no fighter nickname that was more accurate than that belonging to Tony Ferguson. The man known as “El Cucuy” was truly the boogeyman of the lightweight division.

He made his way to the Octagon by winning The Ultimate Fighter: Team Lesnar vs Team Dos Santos in 2011 and proceeded to establish himself as one of the most exciting fighters to wear four-ounce gloves.

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Including his TUF-winning effort, Ferguson won 14 of his 15 next fights in the Octagon, putting together a 12-fight win streak that is tied with Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev for the longest in the division’s history. 

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One of the things that made Ferguson a fan favorite was that not only would he win his fights, but his fights were jam-packed with violence, wild scrambles, and the unique style that only he brought to the Octagon. There’s a reason that Ferguson sits tied with Frankie Edgar for 10th all-time on the UFC bonus list with 11 to his name. In 2017, Ferguson reached the top of the mountain, claiming the interim UFC lightweight title by submitting Kevin Lee. 

Tony Ferguson Calls Himself The ‘CSO— Chief Security Officer Of The UFC’ | ESPN MMA
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Tony Ferguson Calls Himself The ‘CSO— Chief Security Officer Of The UFC’ | ESPN MMA
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Ferguson’s win streak included finishes over Mike Rio, Katsunori Kikuno, Abel Trujillo, Gleison Tibau, Edson Barboza, Lando Vannata, Kevin Lee, Anthony Pettis, and Donald Cerrone. He also added decision wins over Danny Castillo, Josh Thomson, and former champion Rafael Dos Anjos.

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If you have a strong stomach, do yourself a favor and Google image search “Tony Ferguson opponents.” That should tell you all you need to know about what kind of fight Ferguson brought to the Octagon.

Unfortunately for Ferguson and for fight fans alike, multiple attempts to schedule Ferguson against Nurmagomedov fell through for a variety of reasons, leaving many divided on who was the true undisputed champion of the 155-pound division.

Tony Ferguson punches Charles Oliveira of Brazil in their lightweight bout during the UFC 256 event at UFC APEX on December 12, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Tony Ferguson punches Charles Oliveira of Brazil in their lightweight bout during the UFC 256 event at UFC APEX on December 12, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Even though Ferguson and Nurmagomedov never fought, there’s no doubt that, at the time, Ferguson was truly one of, if not the best, lightweights on the planet. Going off strength of schedule alone, it’s clear to see why many believed that Oxnard’s finest was the best of the best.

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In April of 2020, Ferguson and Nurmagomedov were scheduled to finally collide, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the fight from happening. With live events and sports shut down around the globe, the UFC adjusted to be the first spot to pick up operations and they did so by lining up Ferguson and contender Justin Gaethje for the interim UFC lightweight title at UFC 249 on May 9, 2020.

Gaethje had Ferguson’s number that night, as he became the first fighter to defeat Ferguson by knockout, claiming the interim belt in the process.

Tony Ferguson battles Justin Gaethje in their UFC interim lightweight championship fight during the UFC 249 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on May 09, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Tony Ferguson battles Justin Gaethje in their UFC interim lightweight championship fight during the UFC 249 event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena on May 09, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Since UFC 249, it’s been tough sledding for Ferguson, but while many point to the fact that he’s lost six in a row, people are quick to forget who those losses came against. Gaethje, Charles Oliveira, Beneil Dariush, and Michael Chandler are widely considered some of the top talents in the division. Submission defeats to Nate Diaz and Bobby Green round out the opponents that Ferguson has faced while in his slump.

Those fights are tough matchups for any top lightweight, and that’s exactly why the 39-year-old Ferguson is set out to show that “El Cucuy” isn’t done yet.

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At UFC 296: Edwards vs Covington, Ferguson makes his 22nd walk to the UFC Octagon, where he’ll face rising star Paddy Pimblett. It’s Ferguson’s first fight with an up and comer in some time, and beating Pimblett in emphatic fashion will show not only that he still has it, but that he’s still one of the best lightweights in the world.

UFC CEO Dana White said recently that the bout between Ferguson and Pimblett is “a fun, interesting fight with two fun and interesting characters.”

Tony Ferguson punches Nate Diaz in a welterweight fight during the UFC 279 event at T-Mobile Arena on September 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Tony Ferguson punches Nate Diaz in a welterweight fight during the UFC 279 event at T-Mobile Arena on September 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

The UFC boss also acknowledged that Ferguson has had a great UFC career and had some incredible moments on the biggest stage the sport has to offer, but losing to Pimblett may be the last time we see him.

For the fight with Pimblett, Ferguson worked extensively with fitness guru and motivational expert David Goggins. The pair have posted a handful of videos showcasing Ferguson’s strength and conditioning routine ahead of UFC 296. Ferguson appears to be in phenomenal shape, both mentally and physically.

Regardless of how the fight with Pimblett goes or how the six before that went, there’s no taking away what Ferguson has accomplished inside the Octagon and what he’s meant to the sport of MMA.

He will always be “El Cucuy”.

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UFC 296: Edwards vs Covington took place live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 16, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass