While he entered 2020 on a 12-fight win streak, the joint longest in UFC lightweight history, and with a long-awaited title clash with Khabib Nurmagomedov in the works, things quickly went downhill for Ferguson.
After his clash with “The Eagle” was called off again, “El Cucuy” had his win streak convincingly snapped by Justin Gaethje. Since then, the 38-year-old has lost a further four times, with his most recent setback coming in Saturday’s UFC 279 main event.
In his first time fighting at welterweight since 2011, Ferguson shared the Octagon with Nate Diaz, who he’d had one day to prepare for having been placed in the headliner following Khamzat Chimaev‘s weight miss.
Despite many suggesting that he was facing a more appropriate opponent having originally been booked against Li Jingliang, Ferguson was unable to turn his form around, falling to a guillotine choke in the fourth round.
Now winless since 2019 and on a torrid five-fight losing skid, the future appears uncertain for Ferguson, with many even suggesting that it’s time for the TUF 13 victor to hang up his gloves.
But Chael Sonnen has now questioned how anyone could reach that conclusion based on how the UFC 279 main event played out.
Sonnen On Ferguson: “We Don’t Punish Guys For Stepping Up”
During a video uploaded to his YouTube channel, Sonnen assessed what’s next for former interim lightweight champion Ferguson.
“The American Gangster” began by attempting to alert fans of how much power they wield when it comes to Ferguson’s decision-making and next career step. He added that before dropping the hammer on the veteran’s time in the cage, those calling for Ferguson’s retirement would do well to remind themselves of the risks he recently took.
“What are you gonna do with Tony Ferguson, right? That question’s gonna be asked and you’re probably kicking that round just a little bit,” Sonnen said. “What you don’t understand is how much power your answer to that question is going to have. Your sense, your pulse, your responses, your social media could have a tremendous impact; not only with the suits on the second floor, it’s going to have an impact on Tony.
“Before we begin to shovel the last pile of dirt on the grave of Tony’s career, excuse me, we don’t punish guys for taking risks. Tony Ferguson went up to 170 pounds… he made a tough decision, went out to Albuquerque, worked hard, and took risks,” Sonnen added. “And Friday, a proposal was presented to him that was not in the plans, and he said yes.”
Sonnen also questioned how anyone could call for Ferguson to end his career off the back of the Diaz fight, which he described as a “competitive” contest.
And according to the former two-division title challenger, no fighter should be punished for answering the call and stepping up, which Ferguson certainly did by accepting five-round conditions in Las Vegas despite only preparing for three.
“I think you guys are going to be on my side with Tony,” Sonnen stated. “Would you tell me Tony Ferguson is done? Let me guess, ‘Tony Ferguson should never fight again. Dana White should go and give Diaz 20% of the company to get him back.’ … How can we do that after what we just saw? That was one extremely competitive fight.
“Tony is a ’55lber who took a fight at 170… He didn’t have a whole lot of time to train. He wanted to get back in there, give you guys something, and prove something to himself without the preparation with main event conditioning… He was at a point in the fight that per his contract (against Jingliang) wouldn’t have existed,” Sonnen continued. “We don’t punish guys for saying yes. We don’t punish guys for stepping up. We don’t say good goodbye to guys that were in main events of PPVs.”
Sonnen concluded with a final plea, calling on the fanbase to continue to stand behind Ferguson’s career for a while longer.
“Your opinion matters. I hope you fall on the side of Tony Ferguson.”
Do you agree with Chael Sonnen’s Tony Ferguson assessment?