Triple Take: Is a title fight Tony Ferguson's only option after UFC 238?
At Saturday’s UFC 238 event in Chicago, Tony Ferguson extended the longest winning streak in UFC lightweight history when he defeated Donald Cerrone by second-round TKO for his 12th consecutive triumph.
Ferguson hasn’t lost a fight since 2012, and he is rapidly making an argument for being the best fighter in UFC history to never fight for an undisputed belt. Is it finally time for that to change? Can he be denied? Is a title shot his only option now? MMA Junkie’s Mike Bohn, Matt Erickson and Simon Samano sound off in this edition of “Triple Take.”
Mike Bohn: Title shot must happen, but timing is an enemy
Tony Ferguson should be fighting for a title next is the most obvious of headlines coming out of UFC 238. It was true before he got the victory over “Cowboy” Cerrone, and it remains true afterward.
If Ferguson (25-4 MMA, 15-1 UFC) doesn’t get the winner of Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0 MMA, 11-0 UFC) vs. Dustin Poirier (25-5 MMA, 17-4 UFC), outrage would be justified so long as the timeline of events doesn’t include any foul play. But the idea the UFC up to this point has intentionally prevented Ferguson from getting the opportunity is a narrative in need of correction.
Ferguson had his chance 14 months ago when he was scheduled to fight Nurmagomedov for the undisputed title at UFC 223. He suffered one of the most untimely injuries ever, though, when he blew out his knee tripping over a cord just days before.
Should Ferguson have been given the fight with Nurmagomedov in his return at UFC 229, though? Probably, yes. But anyone acting like that fight should’ve trumped the booking between Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor is removing themselves from the reality of how big that fight was for the UFC and the sport.
With Ferguson and Nurmagomedov winning on the same night, the matchmaking should’ve been easy moving forward. Unfortunately, though, that’s when everything went nuts. Nurmagomedov got himself suspended for his post-fight melee with McGregor and others, making him ineligible to book until at least July and putting the division at a standstill.
All of this coincided with some troubling news about Ferguson’s personal life, which put his career on pause. Once his situation appeared more promising, the UFC offered Ferguson an interim lightweight title fight with Max Holloway at UFC 236 in April. He declined, but it’s understandable why “El Cucuy” wouldn’t want to participate in an interim title bout after doing it once before and being, in the minds of many, unjustly stripped.
Ferguson ended up fighting two months later, though, and against Cerrone in a matchup where no belts were on the line. If Ferguson had fought and beaten Holloway at UFC 236 then he would be the one teed up to challenge Nurmagomedov at UFC 242 on Sept. 7 in Abu Dhabi.
And now here we are. Ferguson has won 12 consecutive fights and should absolutely be fighting the Nurmagomedov vs. Poirier winner. However, the timeline for that likely wouldn’t be until December at the earliest (assuming no injuries), and Ferguson said post-fight at UFC 238 that he is eager to compete frequently.
The UFC may attempt to take advantage of that and offer Ferguson another fight before the title, but then the onus falls on him and his team to decide the value of that matchup and whether to accept. Realistically, though, he shouldn’t be answering the phone unless a title shot offer is on the other line.
Next page – Matt Erickson: Who cares about a belt when you can have a ‘red panty night’ instead?