LOS ANGELES -- Tony Ferguson can relate to Josh Neer. Not too long ago, Ferguson said he was harassed on social media by a stranger and the man made it personal, insulting his family.
Ferguson told MMAFighting.com that the guy never came to his gym, but he wishes he had. The UFC lightweight, who meets Gleison Tibau at UFC 184 on Saturday night at Staples Center, finds no issue with the savage beating Neer, a former UFC and Bellator fighter, laid on an online troll in a video that went viral this week.
"These guys, they don't know who they're messing with," Ferguson said at UFC 184 media day Thursday. "We're not gangsters. We're not out there to hurt anybody. We're here to be professional athletes, but you have these internet trolls out there, they take pride in going out there and doing that stuff. Sometimes you gotta brush it off, but some things can get personal. That video is a message to all those guys out there that want to think they're big, bad and tough. We'll invite them to the gym, too. I'll give them a pair of gloves. Want to meet at the park? We'll do that, too. I'm gonna make you sign a waiver beforehand. You're gonna walk out the same way that Josh Neer finished that guy."
UFC veteran Josh Koscheck, who meets Jake Ellenberger on Saturday, said he was once in the exact same scenario as Neer and these things happen rather often in MMA. Someone will think they're tough, either online or in person, and want to go at it with a pro fighter.
"I've been in that situation a long time ago where a guy showed up at my gym, he signed a waiver and wanted to fight me," Koscheck said. "Verbally, I said on video, 'Are you OK to do this?' He said, 'Absolutely.' It didn't go well for him. But I credit him a lot of respect for him wanting to try it."
The video that went viral on places like TMZ this week showed Neer on his knees in front of a prone man, whose name is Patrick Martin, landing multiple elbows and then a kick to the head -- all undefended. Neer released the video himself on YouTube and later deleted it. He told Bloody Elbow that Martin is a "dumbass" that had been "talking sh*t about MMA fighters for a month" and finally Neer relented by letting him come in to spar.
Most of the fighters and coaches MMAFighting.com spoke to on the subject thought the video was raw and looked bad. But none found much fault in what Neer did. The Iowa Athletic Commission investigated the incident, but found that it could do nothing about it, per TMZ.
"The guy wants to get in there and get his ass kicked?" longtime manager and coach "Crazy" Bob Cook said. "So be it. I'm sure he signed a waiver and volunteered for it. Hopefully nobody got hurt too badly one way or the other. But sometimes there's a valuable lesson for whoever that person was. It might be better to get his ass kicked a little bit in the gym than do something in the street and get his ass killed."
Ellenberger has known Neer for more than a decade, since he started in MMA. He has mixed feelings about the situation.
"He's really a no-nonsense kind of guy," Ellenberger said. "You could say, 'Did he go to far?' Well, the guy came to the gym and sparred. It's just one of those situations. I don't know. It did look pretty brutal, what he did. But did [the guy] have it coming? We can all probably think of 10 people we'd like to do that to, but can you do it? No. But if you're in an MMA gym sparring, maybe you could."
Alan Jouban, who meets Richard Walsh at UFC 184, doesn't find fault with Neer necessarily, but isn't sure if pro MMA fighters should be doing this kind of thing and making it public.
"Obviously, we have to conduct ourselves like professional athletes," Jouban said. "We can't accept every challenge. Kobe Bryant doesn't accept every challenge on Twitter to go play one-on-one at the park. But if somebody is going to walk into your gym in the middle of class and disrespect you, we are in a combat sport. A lot of us guys don't take that kindly."
Walsh said that if Neer was still in the UFC or Bellator, it could affect him negatively with regards to sponsors and fans. But he wants people to understand that just because people are athletes doesn't necessarily make them amazing role models.
"I think people put too much emphasis on sports and how people should act," he said. "They should remember that these people are good at a sport, it doesn't mean they make educated decisions or they're smart or they're politicians. He's a fighter and he [is] in a fight sport."
When Koscheck first saw the video, he thought it would result in a lawsuit. Personally, he has a pragmatic view of Twitter trolls. He's not online enough to really notice them, but when he does, he invites them politely to come by his Dethrone Base Camp in Fresno.
"At this point, I just tell anybody that wants to talk trash, 'Hey, come sign up at my gym, buy a membership, pay the monthly fee and you'll get the chance to roll or grapple with me or workout with me,'" Koscheck said. "Become a member. At least I try to get some money out of it."
Ferguson won't be so kind to the person who was calling out him and his family if he ever encounters him.
I got [his] picture," Ferguson said. "I screen-shotted the name. So if I see the guy and he wants to come up to me with a little thing, I'm gonna chin-check him real quick."