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Justin Gaethje: Tony Ferguson isn’t done but he’ll never be an ‘elite’ fighter

“I don’t think he’s done by any means, I just don’t think he’s an elite lightweight”.

Justin Gaethje said he had COVID-19 before UFC 268 fight against Michael Chandler Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Khabib Nurmagomedov might think Tony Ferguson is done, but Justin Gaethje believes there’s still life in the old dog yet.

Gaethje put a beating on Ferguson in the UFC 249 main event before finishing ‘El Cucuy’ with strikes in the fifth round, earning his highest profile win to date and setting up a lightweight title unification bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254.

Ferguson was hoping to rebound from the Gaethje loss with a win over Charles Oliveira at UFC 256 but ended up losing to ‘Do Bronx’ via unanimous decision while Gaethje was submitted by Nurmagomedov at UFC 254.

Gaethje thinks Ferguson will bounce back and snap his two-fight skid but doesn’t believe the former interim lightweight champion will ever become an elite fighter.

“I mean, Tony has always been that man,” Gaethje told ESPN in a recent interview (h/t Abhinav Kini of The Body Lock MMA). “Guys constantly went in there and fought in the chaos and refused to create space. I don’t know why, [Anthony] Pettis and [Donald] Cerrone, these guys weren’t able to do what I did. But I think that was there the whole time.

“Fans not being there really helped, stayed focus, keep everything internal. That’s a huge factor when you’re fighting Tony because just his face alone makes you wanna fight. I don’t think he’s done by any means, I just don’t think he’s an elite lightweight. I don’t think he ever was. I just think his skills were really effective in the way people were fighting him.”

Gaethje doesn’t think Ferguson will ever be the same fighter after the beating he received at UFC 249 but was impressed with Oliveira’s win over the UFC veteran nonetheless.

“I was impressed with Oliveira but yeah, I don’t want to take anything away from him but Tony was not the same person,” Gaethje said. “No one’s going to be the same person after you get hit in the face that many times. Ever.

“You fight with less confidence and his confidence is something that made him so dangerous and his lack of confidence now is going to be a factor.”

Ferguson is still ranked #5 in the UFC lightweight rankings while Gaethje is currently #2.

Check out the full interview below.

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