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Tony Ferguson and the insidious effect of a loss in MMA

Tony Ferguson suffered a heartbreaking loss at the hands of Justin Gaethje
Tony Ferguson suffered a heartbreaking loss at the hands of Justin Gaethje
Johny Payne
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 07 Sep 2020, 06:14 IST
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“Tony Ferguson is the type of guy…” – Hold on to that thought. We’ll get to it in a moment, but first, we ought to examine a few other notable variables in this equation.

The man, the myth, the legend, and the source of inspiration for countless Tony Ferguson jokes and memes also happens to be one of the greatest and most entertaining fighters to have ever donned the MMA gloves.

Tony Ferguson is the owner of one of the most impressive winning streaks in UFC history and was on the cusp of winning his first Undisputed UFC Lightweight Title.

Tony Ferguson had previously held the Interim UFC Lightweight Title and was all but considered by many as the best 155-pounder despite never having held the Undisputed belt.

Nevertheless, Tony Ferguson’s standing in the UFC went for a toss after his upset loss to Justin Gaethje at UFC 249 in May of this year.

His last loss inside the Octagon came via unanimous decision to Michael Johnson in 2012. Following which, Tony Ferguson had amassed a rare 12-fight UFC winning streak replete with several terrifyingly violent stoppage victories. 

Tony Ferguson’s loss to Gaethje at UFC 249 ended his streak, threw cold water on his Undisputed Title aspirations, and shoved the former further away from a potential fight with reigning Undisputed UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov.

As much as certain sections of the combat sports community like to deride the Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov bout for being jinxed – the fight has been booked and canceled five times – it could’ve come to fruition had Tony Ferguson managed to get past Gaethje.

But, alas, fans and experts alike were once again deprived of witnessing the clash between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov.

That said; the upcoming UFC 254 fight, that’ll see Nurmagomedov defend his UFC Lightweight Championship against Justin Gaethje, isn’t a bad fight either. 

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As for Tony Ferguson, one bad day at the office has drastically changed his fortunes. Or so one may think…

A loss in MMA isn’t as insidious as one in boxing, but is oftentimes a potent recipe for simmering disaster nonetheless

One of the key distinctions between the sports of professional boxing and MMA is that the ‘undefeated’ tag enjoys a far greater degree of significance in boxing than it does in Mixed Martial Arts.

“You’re only as good as your last fight”, notes the old combat sports adage, but a loss in MMA isn’t a destroyer of careers as it is in boxing.

In fact, even in the boxing realm, things have begun to change for good; as an increasing number of top fighters and promoters are realizing the futility of preserving that coveted ‘0’ in the undefeated boxer’s record at the expense of important matchups.

None of us would like to see dream matchups delayed owing to a fighter and his/her camp fighting tooth and nail – fighting, ironically, to avoid the toughest fight out there – so as to preserve one’s undefeated status.

No good would come out of yet another dream matchup being delayed like the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao 2015 showdown – a fight which came to fruition several years later than it should’ve actually taken place to be even remotely entertaining.

That said, MMA isn’t football (not the American one, but soccer!) or cricket where a win or loss in most individual matches won’t make or break your career, as there’ll always be another match (except if it’s a world cup match or something of that ilk).

In a nutshell, it’d be safe to say that despite not being the be all end all sort of factor like it’s been for so very long in boxing, a loss in MMA can be dealt with if the fighter follows it up with a streak of impressive victories.

Conor McGregor and Chris Weidman – The treacherousness of a loss in combat sports

Former UFC Featherweight and Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor is surely one of the greatest examples of someone who knows how to make a grand comeback.

“The Notorious” Irishman has faced defeat not once but on four separate occasions at different stages of his MMA career, all losses coming via submission, and all losses being followed up with emphatic returns to the win column.

McGregor’s lone professional boxing bout – the ‘money fight’ spectacle against one of the greatest pugilists of all time, Floyd Mayweather Jr. – witnessed the former lose via TKO. McGregor is yet to step into the boxing ring again, but it’s only fair to give him a pass here as he’s not a professional boxer.

And should Mayweather dare to cross over to MMA as McGregor did in boxing, the likeliest outcome would be the former getting utterly humiliated by McGregor.

In simple terms, McGregor has masterfully demonstrated time and time again how confidence and hard work can successfully mitigate the effect of a defeat in MMA.

On the contrary, Chris Weidman – the former undefeated UFC Middleweight Champion who earned the distinction of becoming the first man to defeat MMA icon Anderson Silva in the UFC – appears to have been one of the most high-profile victims of the insidious effect brought about by a loss inside the MMA cage.

Weidman entered his UFC Middleweight Title fight against Luke Rockhold as the undefeated king of the division. His record stood at 13 wins and no defeats, but one miscalculated spinning kick and a brutal ground and pound attack later, Weidman had dropped the belt to Rockhold.

Weidman has suffered four more losses, all by way of KO/TKO, following his aforesaid loss to Rockhold. Weidman’s managed to win just two fights since his first MMA loss.

This isn’t a slight at Weidman; but is rather a cautionary tale about how a single loss can, at times, derail the career of even the most skilled and hardworking fighters.

Here’s hoping “The All-American” Chris Weidman can turn his career around and perhaps even make a run for the title at either Middleweight or Light Heavyweight.

Tony Ferguson is the type of guy…

Here we are. I’m not going to insult your intelligence and claim to know exactly how Tony Ferguson would make his comeback to prime form after his disheartening loss to Justin Gaethje.

Nevertheless, what I will do is assure you, dear reader, that come hell or high water, Tony Ferguson isn’t done with his quest for the Undisputed UFC Lightweight Championship.

Lest we forget; Tony Ferguson has lost thrice over the course of his MMA career, excluding his loss to Gaethje which was his fourth, and after every past loss the former has evidently emerged stronger than ever.

Every fighter is unique, and it’d be wrong to say that Tony Ferguson’s future path would exactly mirror that of McGregor’s or perhaps Weidman’s for that matter.

However, if El Cucuy’s past is anything to go by; one can be as confident as a wolf in a sheep pen that Tony Ferguson is poised to rise from the ashes of his heartbreaking defeat.

Or at least that’s what the legions of MMA fans hope – It’d be truly amazing if, regardless of the outcome of Nurmagomedov’s fight with Gaethje, the Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov fight cancellation curse is finally broken – El Cucuy and The Eagle ultimately face one another and gain closure on their long-running rivalry.

Tony Ferguson is the type of guy who is immune to the insidious effect of a loss in MMA.

Published 07 Sep 2020, 06:14 IST
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