Tony Ferguson looking past Paddy Pimblett, on to Conor McGregor

Tony Ferguson's next fight looks like do or die for the former interim champ, but that doesn't mean he's not looking at the future.

By: Zane Simon | 2 months ago
Tony Ferguson looking past Paddy Pimblett, on to Conor McGregor
Tony Ferguson ahead of his fight with Nate Diaz at UFC 279. - Joe Camporeale IMAGO/USA TODAY

One of the major topics to hit the UFC lately has been the recent booking of former interim champion Tony Ferguson, against rising lightweight star Paddy Pimblett. Currently running up a six-fight losing streak, Ferguson has been facing more calls to retire from fans and pundits lately than he has garnered any kind of hype for future fighting endeavors.

Amid that backlash and a feeling that the UFC is engaging in some overtly cynical matchmaking, there’s also been a growing sentiment of support for ‘El Cucuy’. Fighters like Chael Sonnen, Michael Bisping, and Daniel Cormier have all come out with statements that they believe Ferguson vs. Pimblett has the potential to be highly competitive, Sonnen is even picking the man to win.

Whatever side onlookers may fall on, however, there’s one thing that can’t be doubted. Tony Ferguson’s confidence remains undefeated. Heading into his bout against Bobby Green, the 39-year-old claimed that he was just looking for five fights and a UFC belt. That may not be the mantra heading into his bout against Pimblett, but he’s once again got his eyes out ahead of the fight in front of him.

Tony Ferguson still searching for Conor McGregor fight

It’s hard not to look back on Tony Ferguson’s UFC career and think of what might have been. At one time the owner of a 12-fight winning streak that included victories over former champions Rafael Dos Anjos and Anthony Pettis, the Oxnard, California native came within spitting distance of a UFC championship. Technically, he even had one; winning the interim lightweight title off a submission victory over KEvin Lee at UFC 216 in 2017.

Unfortunately for the 10th Planet black belt, all his success came right at the height of Conor McGregor’s fame, and right alongside the rise to power of Khabib Nurmagomedov. Ferguson and Nurmagomedov were booked to fight on four separate occasions. Three of those with lightweight gold on the line. None of those fights materialized.

‘The Eagle’ retired from MMA just a few years later, in 2020—unbeaten and with the belt still around his waist. With the potential for that fight now truly dead, Ferguson hopes he can get the other dream bout that escaped him in his prime. Even with a seeming ‘must win’ booking sitting right in front of him.

“I have nothing against the kid. Patrick seems like a pretty legit dude,” Ferguson said of Pimblett in a recent interview with ESPN (transcript via MMA Junkie). “He gets pretty big, his standup is OK, but his ground game is a lot better. I love fighting internationals. It’s cool, I love it.

“Going after Khabib for a long time and going after ‘McNuggets’, this is about as close as it’s going to get for right now. So as soon as we get through this dude, we’ll go after Conor if he’ll sign on the dotted line and get through USADA.”

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Still no sign of Conor McGregor

It’s not just the six losses in a row that has Tony Feruson’s future feeling more like a pipe dream than a potential reality. Nor is it the fact that Pimblett is riding his own six-fight win streak, stretching back to a 2018 loss against Soren Bak in Cage Warriors. The major X-factor pushing Ferguson’s expectations into the realm of the unreal is the simple fact that Conor McGregor doesn’t seem close to fighting anyone right now, let alone Tony Ferguson.

Having just passed two years, now, since McGregor’s brutal leg injury against Dustin Poirier back in 2021, the ‘Notorious’ Irishman was expected to hit the Octagon sometime in the coming months. The UFC spent a large portion of the year hyping up McGregor’s coaching stint, opposite former Bellator champion Michael Chandler. Only to have McGregor half-ass his way through the season and seemingly skip out on any idea that he and Chandler would be facing off as intended.

Eventually, McGregor seemed as though he were on the border of being lured back to the Octagon, and even claimed that he would be ready to face Chandler in the UFC’s final PPV of the year, on December 16th. But the days for booking that event have come and gone as well. In his stead, welterweight champion Leon Edwards will defend his title against former interim champion Colby Covington, and Alexandre Pantoja will defend his flyweight title against Brandon Royval.

“Chandler sit there and wait and shut your mouth,” McGregor told the Daily Mirror in a recent impromptu interview (transcript via The U.S. Sun). “The Mac will be in touch.”

In a recent media scrum, UFC CEO Dana White confirmed that the promotion has no clear plans for McGregor vs. Chandler at this time, but that that is still the fight they’re planning to book.

“I got nothing on either one of those guys right now,” White stated. “I’ve been saying for a while that next year is when Conor is going to fight. If Chandler gets antsy, we’ll figure something out.”

Whatever Conor McGregor ends up doing in the next calendar year, if it includes Tony Ferguson, that would truly be a surprise.

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About the author
Zane Simon
Zane Simon

Zane Simon is a senior editor, writer, and podcaster for Bloody Elbow. He has worked with the website since 2013, taking on a wide variety of roles. A lifelong combat sports fan, Zane has trained off & on in both boxing and Muay Thai. He currently hosts the long-running MMA Vivisection podcast, which he took over from Nate Wilcox & Dallas Winston in 2015, as well as the 6th Round podcast, started in 2014. Zane is also responsible for developing and maintaining the ‘List of current UFC fighters’ on Bloody Elbow, a resource he originally developed for Wikipedia in 2010.

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