Birthplace: Oxnard, California
Fighting out of: Ventura, California
Nickname: El Cucuy
Division: Lightweight; Welterweight
Mixed martial arts record: 28 fights – won 25 (12 by KO, 8 by submission, 5 by decision), lost 3 (1 by submission, 2 by decision)
Titles: Interim UFC Lightweight Championship
Sports-starved punters are awaiting UFC 249 – which was scheduled for 18 April despite the coronavirus pandemic that has decimated the sporting calendar, before being shifted to a new date of 10 May (AEST) – with feverish anticipation.
The headline bout of UFC 249 was originally Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson’s challenge against Khabib Nurmagomedov for the UFC Lightweight Championship, but travel restrictions prevented Nurmagomedov from participating. Instead, Ferguson will fight fellow American Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight belt – and attempt to add another chapter to a remarkable MMA career.
Tony Ferguson career summary
Born in California but spending much of his youth in Michigan, Tony Ferguson was a high school and college wrestling star. He moved into the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) in 2008 after returning to California, competing under several promotions’ banners, including California Xtreme Fighting, Total Fighting Alliance and National Fight Alliance MMA. Tony Ferguson’s record of 10 wins from his first 12 fights included a submission victory over kickboxing star Joe Schilling.
The Ultimate Fighter brings Ferguson’s UFC dream to reality
Ferguson’s big break arrived via when he was accepted to compete in the 13th season of the UFC’s reality series The Ultimate Fighter in 2011. Fighting as a welterweight, the 27-year-old won The Ultimate Fighter 13’s finale – a knockout of Ramsey Nijem – in a fight that doubled as his UFC debut.
Ferguson returned to the lightweight division and defeated Aaron Riley (TKO) and Yves Edwards (unanimous decision), before suffering the only loss of his UFC career to date, to Michael Johnson by unanimous decision in 2012.
Interim UFC Lightweight Champion
Since 2013, Ferguson has pieced together a 12-fight winning streak – a record-equalling feat in the UFC’s lightweight division (tied with Khabib Nurmagomedov). He picked up the Performance of the Night award for three straight 2015 wins over Gleison Tibau, Josh Thomson and Edson Barboza. He was scheduled to face Nurmagomedov in December of that year, but the fight was thwarted by an injury to the Russian – the first of four times the pair’s slated encounter was scratched.
Ferguson defeated Kevin Lee at UFC 216 via a third-round submission (triangle choke) in October 2017 to become the Interim UFC Lightweight Champion. But when a knee complaint ruled Ferguson out of yet another showdown with Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 in April 2018, he surrendered the title. He subsequently defeated Anthony Pettis by TKO in October 2018 at UFC 229.
Tony Ferguson’s mental health struggles hit the news in early 2019 after his wife filed a restraining order against him. The UFC and rival fighters such as Conor McGregor rallied around the embattled veteran. The restraining order was later dropped and Ferguson returned to the octagon.
The current day
In Tony Ferguson’s last fight, he stopped Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone by TKO in the second round at UFC 238 in June 2019. The win was controversial: Ferguson broke Cerrone’s nose with a punch after the bell, and the ringside doctor stopped the fight. Tony Ferguson’s next fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov for the UFC Lightweight Championship at UFC 249 was set to go ahead on 18 April, but the COVID-19 crisis that has ground world sport to a halt prevents Nurmagomedov from travelling – scuppering the rivals’ long-awaited showdown for a fifth time.
Ferguson will still headline UFC 249 against Justin Gaethje, with the pair squaring off for the interim lightweight title on 10 May in Florida.
MMA website Tapology recently named Ferguson at number 36 in its list of the 100 greatest fighters in UFC history. His extreme fitness, quick hands, strong chin and outstanding submission skills are rated as his greatest strengths, but a relentless will to win is what sets Ferguson apart and has underpinned his eight-year unbeaten run.
Of Mexican heritage, Ferguson derives his nickname – ‘El Cucuy’ – from a Mexican urban legend depicting a bogeyman-like monster.
Tony Ferguson statistics
Keep these key stats in mind if you plan on placing a bet on El Cucuy:
- Tony Ferguson’s record of 15 wins and one loss under the UFC banner includes a current streak of 12 consecutive wins – an equal record in the lightweight division.
- Ferguson’s 12-fight winning run in the UFC includes just three fights that went the distance; three came by knockout – including his last two fights – and six by submission.
- Ferguson has been beyond three rounds just twice in his 28-fight MMA career.
- Ferguson has never been defeated by knockout; two of his three career losses came by decision, the other by submission.
Tony Ferguson news
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Something of a late bloomer, Tony Ferguson looks as good as ever at 36 years of age. His last UFC loss was eight years ago, and he has since gone on to carve out a deserved reputation as one of the MMA world’s most exciting fighters. While ‘El Cucuy’s’ long-overdue clash with the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov was nipped in the bud yet again, the subsequent UFC 249 replacement bout against Justin Gaethje is destined to be one of the more memorable sporting occasions of 2020.
Sportsbet has betting options on a wide range of UFC markets, including UFC 249 odds for Tony Ferguson’s April 18 fight against Justin Gaethje as well as all other bouts on the UFC 249 card.