Chael Sonnen has praised Tony Ferguson for taking high-risk, low-reward fights and criticized top UFC welterweights for refusing other fights in favor of a title shot. In a recent video uploaded to his YouTube channel, Chael Sonnen discussed the recent developments in the 170lb division.
Fights between established stars and upcoming fighters are one of the most important aspects of MMA to keep the title picture moving. Former UFC interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson did not shy away from risking his top spot and accepted the fight against a young Charles Oliveira, who emerged as the top contender in the lightweight division with a win over El Cucuy. Chael Sonnen acknowledged Ferguson for giving that opportunity to the lesser-known fighter rather than holding back for the title opportunity to show.
"One of the great stars of the sport, Tony Ferguson, he got up in the loft himself but he dropped the ladder down so other people could get up there. He did that for Charles Olveira... (In the lightweight division) you have some really good fighters and then you have stars... They (the really good fighters) cannot get to a title fight... They can't be the stars unless one of the stars gives them the opportunity in the first place. Tony has already done it once and Tony is gonna do it the second time," Chael Sonnen said.
Top-ranked welterweights Colby Covington, Leon Edwards, Jorge Masvidal and Stephen Thompson have presented their case for the title shot in recent months and refused to fight fellow contenders for monetary reasons or otherwise. However, champion Kamaru Usman has already defeated four out of the top five fighters in the division. Sonnen argued that welterweights are hurting the stock of their own division by holding up the title picture by waiting out for the title shot rather than staying active.
"Where is the Tony Ferguson of 170? Where is the star... the marquee fighter who's up in the loft but left the rope down so that somebody else could climb up with him? In all fairness, Kamaru Usman is one of the greats ever... And then you look at what Usman has to put up with... the guys that don't want to fight for the No.1 contendership, the guys who want to fight him and only fight him in rematches... It's tough to be a fan of 170," Chael Sonnen said.
How is Tony Ferguson different from welterweight fighters?
The title opportunity has eluded Tony Ferguson on multiple occasions despite being one of the most consistent fighters in the UFC. However, El Cucuy has competed against fighters like Anthony Pettis, Donald Cerrone, Justin Gaethje and Charles Oliveira in the past and risked losing his top spot on multiple occasions. Currently ranked at No. 5 in the lightweight division, Tony Ferguson will attempt to get back in the win column in another high-stakes fight against No. 9 ranked Beneil Dariush at UFC 262 after losing to Charles Oliveira in December 2020.
The picture in the welterweight division is in complete contrast to Tony Ferguson's approach. The UFC's attempts to put together fights like Leon Edwards vs Colby Covington, Jorge Masvidal vs Colby Covington, and Stephen Thompson vs Leon Edwards have failed in recent times due to financial and other reasons. The top contenders' reluctance to take fights other than title shots has left up-and-coming fighters without big opportunities or breakout performances.