If fans and pundits have been less than enthusiastic with the UFC’s announcement that Paddy Pimblett will be fighting Tony Ferguson on the UFC’s final PPV of 2023, their cries have not gone unheard. A number of former fighters have given their opinions, mostly to say that they feel Ferguson has a real solid chance of winning—some are even picking ‘El Cucuy’ outright.
At the most recent Contender Series fight card, back on September 26th, Dana White sat down with reporters. Eventually the conversation turned to Ferguson vs. Pimblett.
Dana White defends Pimblett vs. Ferguson booking
There was a time when picking up back-to-back losses was enough to get most fighters released from the UFC; a reputation that the promotion was only interested in hosting the best of the best. At this point, however, that day is long passed. However, despite Tony Ferguson’s current six-fight losing streak, UFC CEO Dana White feels its important to go beyond the record when looking at the 39-year-old’s upcoming booking against a man more than a decade his junior.
“I think a lot of people think that Paddy is unproven, and I think a lot of people feel like this is a fight Tony isn’t in deep water like he’s been in, in his last several fights,” White told reporters, speaking on Ferguson vs. Pimblett (transcript via MMA Fighting). “I think the matchmaking and the timing on this fight is excellent and couldn’t be more perfect.”
“If you look at Tony’s last few fights that he’s fought, he looked damn good,” he added. “Before the [Michael] Chandler finish, and every fight that’s he’s fought in the last two or three fights, he looked damn good, right up until the end. It’s a fun, interesting fight with two fun and interesting characters.”
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Dana White hopes Ferguson retires on a loss
Despite his enthusiastic defense of a “perfect” fight booking, Dana White wasn’t willing to go so far as to give Tony Ferguson’s current career situation half as much positive spin. It doesn’t sound like the head of the world’s largest MMA promotion would go so far as to force Ferguson into retirement, should he lose again at UFC 296, but he’s hoping Ferguson is willing to read the writing on the wall and walk away on his own terms.
“I would let Tony make that decision,” Dana White responded when asked about Ferguson possibly retiring. “But I’m sure if he loses to Paddy he would probably look at calling it [a career].
“He’s had a great career. Done a lot of things, had a lot of big fights, and [another loss] probably would be a wrap for him, hopefully.”
For his part, Ferguson has been absolutely bullish on continuing his combat sports career. Ahead of his most recent bout—a loss to Bobby Green at UFC 291—the California native could be heard espousing the mantra, “Five fights and a title.” Even without a victory in the Octagon since 2019, Ferguson has been adamant that he can still be a contender.
“Unfortunately in sports, setbacks like this are part of the journey.” Ferguson wrote in a post on Instagram. “While I won’t use the eye poke as an excuse for the outcome, I know for a fact I have more to give. Moving forward, I plan to work closely with Dana, Hunter & my entire team to assess what’s next.”
UFC 296 takes place on December 16th in Las Vegas, NV. The event is set to feature a pair of title fights, with Leon Edwards defending the welterweight title against Colby Covington and Alexandre Pantoja defending the fligthweight belt against Brandon Royval. Stay tuned to BE for more event coverage.
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