Any horror movie buff knows that the slasher does not die the first time he’s knocked out.
MMA’s answer to a horror slasher is El Cucuy, the UFC’s own Boogeyman, Tony Ferguson. Ferguson is known to spill more blood than Voorhees and dice up more victims than Krueger. And don’t even bother running. El Cucuy will keep coming forward, and he will break your will to fight on.
Tony Ferguson is known for many things: hyper-entertaining fights, Writing In Caps Just Because, random feats of Ferguson, and of course: refusing to die, no matter how many weapons his target throws at him.
In the UFC, we had never seen anybody put away Tony Ferguson. In 2012, Michael Johnson came away from his bout against Ferguson with a win, but neither he nor the 12 opponents who came after were able to keep The Boogeyman down, and each of them died deliciously.
At UFC Fight Night 91, Lando Vannata stepped in on short notice and had Ferguson on the brink of death with many heavy shots in the first round, including a clean head kick, but Ferguson would come back and get the submission victory.
At UFC 217, Kevin Lee outpowered Ferguson and dominated the first round with a mauling attack that could have left a lesser man demoralized, but El Cucuy came back stronger and made Lee surrender.
At UFC 229, Anthony Pettis dropped Tony Ferguson with a devastating right hook followed by subsequent blows that had Ferguson busted and dazed, but once again, Ferguson would prove that blood only makes him stronger, and it prompted him to do some blood inducement of his own in yet another comeback slashing.
And as the comebacks and slaughters of Tony Ferguson’s 12-fight winning streak accumulated, so did the anticipation to find out if The Boogeyman could strangle the untouchable: Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The desperation of MMA fans to see a Khabib vs. Ferguson fight is well documented. It is a dream fight that has spanned five years and five cancellations. Much like the horror monster and El Cucuy himself, the fight kept resurrecting, no matter how many times it died. The hope of MMA fans continued to experience insufferable wounds, but it, too, rose from the dead whenever the fight was rebooked and grew with nervous anticipation as they watched the days tick closer to the fight. But at UFC 249, both El Cucuy’s streak of not getting KO’d and the hope of a streak vs. streak version of Khabib/Ferguson finally experienced fatal blows.
On May 9, 2020, Justin Gaethje walked into the Octagon as a man on a mission. And when he did what Ferguson’s previous 12 opponents could not in vanquishing El Cucuy, that also may have killed any hope of the fight MMA fans have been begging for. Or maybe not. Because not unlike a wounded Jason Voorhees, it would be foolhardy to assume that The Boogeyman is really finished just because he’s temporarily down. And with his resurrection, he could bring Khabib vs. Ferguson back from the grave with him.
Khabib vs. Ferguson is more than a fight. It has taken on a life of its own…a Frankenstein of fights, a monster spawned from the imaginations of fight fans that grew in strength with every addition to their victims list. Khabib vs. Ferguson has come back from a lot: tiramisu, broken ribs, bloody lungs, even wire cables, but it is now facing the two biggest blows of its history: a loss and a retirement. When Tony Ferguson steps into the Octagon against Charles Oliveira at UFC 256, he has a chance to produce the remedy for both wounds.
One of the reasons Khabib has stated he will not compete again is because of a lack of new challengers. He particularly cites already defeating Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, who will be competing in the presumptive #1-contender fight at UFC 257. But what Khabib may, by his own admission, be overlooking is if Tony Ferguson re-enters the mix. Khabib knows all too well what a victory over a peak Tony Ferguson would do for his legacy. So even though Ferguson’s loss to Gaethje may have killed the prospect of a streak vs. streak confrontation, the fight itself may not be dead yet.
If Tony Ferguson goes out there and turns in an impressive victory over a worthy opponent in Charles Oliveira, you can bet Khabib will be watching. And we already know whom Tony Ferguson will be calling for after the fight. Dana White and the UFC would have their preference of a Khabib/McGregor rematch, but the one thing the UFC wants more than that fight would be any Khabib fight if the alternative is none at all. So that would then just leave convincing Khabib to terminate his retirement.
How poetic would it be for Khabib to chase 30-0 in what is still arguably the most desired fight in MMA history? You’re telling me Khabib wouldn’t consider this if Ferguson gets a win this Saturday?
Perhaps the final obstacle then would be Mother Nurmagomedov giving her blessing. Khabib may just need to have another heart to heart with his mother in the hopes of reviving Khabib vs. Ferguson one more time. Then again, maybe not. Maybe Khabib is truly beyond convincing at this point and may vacate the title officially any day now. But there is one thing that I am certain of: You can never say never in this sport. Indeed, the MMA monster that is Khabib vs. Ferguson could come back to life once more. It might just take The Boogeyman bouncing back from his first TKO loss with a win this Saturday to result in possibly the greatest comeback in MMA history: the final resurrection of Khabib vs. Ferguson.