The UFC’s lightweight world is pretty wide open for Tony Ferguson, who submitted Abel Trujillo at UFC 181 to improve his UFC record to 7-1.
After the winner of “The Ultimate Fighter 13″ made it known he’d like to fight a top-10 opponent, it appears the UFC is willing to give him that opportunity. On Tuesday’s edition of MMAjunkie Radio, Ferguson (17-3 MMA, 7-1 UFC) said his next opponent could come from a trio of standouts: Jim Miller, Al Iaquinta and Nate Diaz.
“These are all names that are awesome,” Ferguson said. “They’re top-ranked guys.”
Diaz, of course, is booked to fight Rafael dos Anjos (22-7 MMA, 11-5 UFC) in Saturday’s UFC on FOX 13 co-headliner, so his eligibility may hinge on the outcome of that fight. But whatever comes next for Ferguson, he’s definitely confident he’ll make it to the title.
“If they don’t want to give it to me and give me an easy paycheck, that’s fine,” he said. “I don’t care.”
Following this past Saturday’s pay-per-view event at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Events Center, Ferguson even had a few words for the fighters at the top of his division: champ Anthony Pettis and Khabib Nurmagomedov, who could clash next year.
“I told Anthony and Khabib the same, just chill on that belt for a little bit and keep it warm, because I’m right here,” he said. “I might not be on the same path as you right now, but trust me, we will cross paths. And that’s not just reiterated from a movie. No, this is me. I don’t have to talk sh-t in order to get where I need to go.”
Ferguson’s brand of confidence might not be considered trash-talk, but it does carry the kind of self-certainty and conviction that some of his opponents might interpret as cockiness.
That might be as good as a Conor McGregor routine in attracting interest from bigger-name opponents, so there’s no reason for him to stop now.
“I’ve left it to the hands of the judges only a handful of times, and I don’t plan on doing it any more,” Ferguson said. “There’s nothing I’ve seen from Pettis that I can’t do. Everybody has their own set of skills and moves, but it’s a clash of styles.”
Trujillo didn’t disappoint Ferguson in the style he brought to their weekend bout. The Blackzilian came out throwing heavy leather and dropped Ferguson with a big punch. He also took Ferguson to the ground. But according to “El Cucuy,” that set up a shift in momentum that saw him surge ahead in the next round as Trujillo expired.
Indeed, Ferguson pressured Trujillo from the start of the second round and bowled him to the mat before cinching a rear-naked choke.
“I’ve got a formula for success, and each time, it changes,” Ferguson said. “I should have blocked more; I just didn’t calibrate it right. We had a very good camp. We knew what to protect, but that wasn’t the problem. I knew I couldn’t get into a punching contest with this guy. If I was going to stand and trade with him, that was going to be a problem.
“It’s something I’m going to have to work on, but I’m happy with my performance. He didn’t really shock me in any way. He didn’t show any jiu-jitsu. I’m very confident, and I knew if he was going to take me down, it wouldn’t matter. I did a little can-can step to clear my head, because when you get hit like that, you want to start hitting other people, too.”
After the fight, Ferguson brushed off a cold shoulder from Trujillo and scoffed at a disapproving tweet sent by UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione, who trains with Trujillo at the Blackzilians.
“Whatever, dude,” he said. “Cut down to my weight class and I’ll take care of you, too. He’s an idiot. I don’t want to say it to these guys, but quit being an idiot.”
Either way, though, Ferguson is getting a reaction, in and outside of the cage. And for those who might fight him, he said, “that’s going to be haunting every single one of their thoughts.”
MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show, available on SiriusXM channel 92, is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.