For years, Tony Ferguson stood out as something of a maverick among elite MMA fighters. A top-tier performer who seemingly ran his own camps, brought in his own training partners and coaches, and eschewed the prototypical ‘big camp’ style of other MMA gyms and athletes.
That outsider methodology brought Ferguson all the way to the top of the lightweight division, and a piece of the UFC title with it—gained back in 2017 with a victory over Kevin Lee. However, following two straight losses last year, to Justin Gaethje and Charles Oliveira, it sounds like ‘El Cucuy’ has seen the need for change, calling his losing streak the “best learning experience I probably could have ever had,” in a recent interview with Submission Radio.
“Instead of a varsity mentality I went back to an Olympic mentality, and I started to surrounding myself around people that are hungry how I am and how they’ve been for a long time,” Ferguson said about centering his training camp around Freddie Roach’s Wild Card boxing gym. “And I started to find myself over at Wild Card a lot easier, because that’s where I knew that I could find that kind of grind.”
“The structure that I’ve found over at Wild Card boxing with coach Freddie Roach, and then you have Marvin Somodio and then you have coach Pepe Reily and my teammates. It’s very structured and it’s very cool how they have it, and it’s awesome, man. It’s not worried about what song’s next on the radio – not that it was the case ever anywhere, but it’s really cool, man. You’ve got amateurs, you’ve got pros and you’ve got Olympians. And you have a different look at everything, but the grind is still the same, it does not fucken change. And it’s nice to be around that because of that structure. For a long time I had to structure myself. And I did that, especially with balancing everything. What’s cool is being able to have the perspective of my coaches and my team to be able to understand the game of martial arts as a whole.”
Ferguson had a lot of positives to say about getting to chat with the likes of GSP and Ben Askren, who both have been regular fixtures at the gym lately. He also talked about his prep for his Oliveira fight, noting that he only spent 5 hours altogether training BJJ for the matchup.
“I trained for five hours for Oliveira in Jiu Jitsu because of COVID and limited ability for people, and it was just crazy,” Ferguson explained. “Just dealing with certain shit, dude. And during fight week we were supposed to meet up with my Jiu Jitsu team, and we didn’t even get a chance to.”
“I’m gonna be real, that’s how when I started thinking about my reps, and I started thinking about other things. It’s not smart. Don’t listen. I’m a black belt when it comes to it and that’s what it comes to, is that my training with 10th Planet and how confident I was to keep my back to the mat and understand where I was,” Ferguson said, adding that he was largely comfortable hunting for the D’arce choke against Oliveira off his back, but couldn’t pull the trigger on the move after injuring his arm in the fight.
He also noted that, immediately following the bout, he fired one of his coaches for taking a cornering spot that was supposed to belong to someone else. “...he big-leagued one of my other guys. It was crazy, cause he ended up taking a spot where he wasn’t supposed to. And going into the second round I’m like, ‘What the fuck are you doing in here?’”
All told, it seems the Ventura-based fighter is looking to bring a more well rounded approach to his upcoming contest at UFC 262. Ferguson is set to face longtime Kings MMA athlete Beneil Dariush, in a bout likely slated for the event’s main card. While Ferguson expressed nothing but respect for his opponent, he also made it clear that he feels like he’s back in the kind of top form that saw him go on a 12-fight unbeaten streak.
“It’s a great fight. Let’s talk about Beneil. The guy’s an up and comer. Not up and comer, an OG dude,” Ferguson enthused. “He’s been doing the game for a long time. He’s over at Huntington beach with Rafael Cordeiro. He’s a southpaw, he’s very strong on his left side. He’s very game in mixing it up. So, that’s why I’ve been mixing my shit up. Because I got too one-dimensional. When you get too one dimensional, you start to plateau. And as a master trainer, you should be able to realize that and then understand that, make some changes, and then be able to get your athlete back on the same program, which was, not peaking, but steadily increasing. Paying attention to the smaller details are always going to make for the best things. And Beneil and their team, they got a shitload of people over there helping them out. They got like an Ultimate Fighter team. It feels like I’m back on the Ultimate Fighter, guys. It really does.”
UFC 262 takes place May 15th in Houston, TX. The event is expected to be headlined by a lightweight title fight between Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler, competing for Khabib Nurmagomedov’s vacated belt. A welterweight bout between Leon Edwards and Nate Diaz is set for the co-main event.