Ferguson v Pettis: Can Ferguson set up a clash with the winner of McGregor v Khabib?
Tony Ferguson said last month that he was ready to “bring the pain” in his upcoming fight against Anthony Pettis. UFC 229 is fast approaching, and the words of the former interim UFC lightweight champion strike a confident tone ahead of the crunch event on 6th October.
Although Conor McGregor’s clash with Khabib Nurmagomedov will draw the headlines from casual onlookers, in part due to it being for the UFC Lightweight championship, Ferguson’s duel with Pettis will be a tussle where the stakes are high; with the victor in line to fight the winner of the McGregor/Khabib showdown.
— Tony Ferguson (@TonyFergusonXT) September 17, 2018
Considering this will be Ferguson’s first fight in almost a year, it’s clear the stakes are even higher. 6th October will mark 364 days since the California native dominated Kevin Lee to win the interim UFC Lightweight Championship – a title later stripped due to injury. It has been something of a turbulent year for Ferguson, with a scheduled clash against Khabib having to be postponed after the American tore his fibular collateral ligament — a knee injury in layman’s terms.
With the disappointment of being forced to withdraw from the Khabib fight still undoubtedly lingering in Ferguson’s mind, his upcoming showdown with Pettis offers him a chance to show that he’s still a fighter to be feared, despite injury concerns. However, until he steps into the Octagon, we won’t know the full impact of his injury. Will he be able to move with the same speed? How light will he be on his feet? There are also the psychological effects such a setback can have to consider. Will the prospect of a repeat injury be playing on Ferguson’s mind?
It’s these kinds of distractions that can give an opponent the upper hand, and Pettis’ will surely be ready to capitalise on any perceived lack of concentration the 34-year-old may be suffering from.
However, one year out of action does not cause an MMA fighter to lose what previously defined him. Ferguson’s victory over Kevin Lee a year ago was his tenth successive triumph — setting the record for most consecutive victories in UFC lightweight division history. This winning run stretches back to May 2012, when ‘El Cucuy’ was bested by Michael Johnson. It’s an impressive statistic, and Ferguson will certainly have experience on his side against Pettis, whose recent record is a lot spottier, having tasted victory just three times in his last eight encounters.
The prospect of a match-up with the winner of the Khabib vs McGregor fight should act as extra motivation — if it were needed — for Ferguson. In McGregor vs Khabib betting, it is the Russian who is favourite to come out victorious, with a price of 4/6 to defeat the Irishman.Khabib has been outspoken in the build-up to UFC 229, saying that Pettis could prove a challenging opponent for the Ferguson, given the Wisconsin native’s strengths in the grappling department. The Russian has been brazen in his assumptions that he will beat McGregor to set up a rematch of his cancelled fight with Ferguson. Only time will tell whether his assertions are justified.
Needless to say, Ferguson’s clash with Pettis is one of the more intriguing of UFC 229. Time is hardly on Ferguson’s side age-wise, and defeat could spell the beginning of the end for a fighter who has enjoyed a fine career by all accounts. However, these kinds of thoughts certainly won’t be entering the former champion’s mind of the former champion, and a triumph on the 6th October will show that he is still among the elite.
Perhaps the key to victory lies only within Ferguson’s own mindset. Recovering and returning from injury is both a mental and physical challenge in any sport, but perhaps even more so in MMA. This is a sport which does not forgive tentativeness, or a lack of assurance of one’s capabilities. If he can overcome these hurdles, and demonstrate the kind of ruthlessness which delivered the lightweight title in the first place, the future can still look as bright as the past for Tony Ferguson.
The editorial unit