It wasn’t that Tony Ferguson didn’t want to fight Michael Johnson at UFC 209.
Johnson, after all, handed Ferguson his last loss back in 2012. It’s Ferguson’s only blemish in his past 16 fights, and like any fighter worth his salt, the top lightweight contender longs to avenge his defeats.
“I wanted to whoop Michael Johnson’s ass and avenge my loss,” Ferguson said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour.
But there was a big catch which kept the fight, which would have been a last-minute replacement matchup after Khabib Nurmagomedov had to pull out of his his planned co-main event with Ferguson on Friday, from happening.
The UFC wanted to make a significant cut in Ferguson’s contracted pay, and Ferguson wasn’t having any of it.
“I can’t take a pay cut for no title,” Ferguson said. “It made absolutely zero sense. I begged them to pay my fairly to whup his ass but they refused.”
Ferguson had been slated to make $250,000 to show for the fight, with a $250,000 win bonus attached. While “El Cucuy” declined to place a specific dollar figure on how much of a pay cut they asked for him to fight Johnson, his words indicated it was a steep request.
“It wasn’t what I wanted,” Ferguson said. “They wanted to give me something but I wanted my show money, I felt like at least i deserved that. The day before, to take a huge pay cut, more than probably half. It just, it’s frustrating, dude.”
So Ferguson declined to take the fight, hoping to get his show money. But he didn’t receive that, either. Ferguson told MMAjunkie in an interview published Wednesday that the UFC gave him less than half of the $250,000 he would have made if he fought Nurmagomedov. Ferguson would have also made another $250,000 if he won the fight.
“It was like a slap to the face,” Ferguson told MMAjunkie. “My training expenses were a lot larger than any other fight I’ve ever done because this was supposed to be the biggest fight of my career. So now I’m sitting here, and it’s like, what is my worth to the UFC? Like, do I not fight enough? Do I not bleed enough for them? It’s going through my head right now, because I didn’t lose.
“I did everything in my power that I could to show up on that scale, and that’s what I thought we were going to do. That’s why you call it show money. And to every fan that’s out there in the world, (UFC President) Dana (White), he said they cut me out a check, and I didn’t get a check, and then this morning I got my wire, and I’m looking at it and I’m like, ‘What the frick, man?’ I’m like, ‘Seriously?'”
A UFC official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told MMA Fighting that Ferguson received in the six figures almost double the standard show money for fighters. The UFC is not contractually obligated to pay a fighter who does not fight, but has given fighters their show money in the past. The official said UFC brass wanted to make sure Ferguson was compensated in some way. This was a unique situation, because the UFC lost an interim title fight and a co-main event of a pay per view.
Ferguson, though, didn’t seem to come out of the ordeal too satisfied.
“I’ll fight anybody as long as not as I’m not punished for something that somebody else has not shown up to do,” Ferguson said on The MMA Hour. “I did everything on my end, showed up, did media obligations, showed up on the scales. I did everything, I was ready, dude.”
In the wake of everything that went down, Ferguson was left to ponder what often seems like the capriciousness of the fight business.
“Like all fighters, I budgeted my entire camp off my show money,” Ferguson said. “My wife works, I’m saving my money to buy a home, I’m remodeling it, which is for my absolute purpose for the career. This fight was going to have enough to afford this house, my payments for the year, the remodeling job for my home gym so I can raise my son. Yet here I am, looking at my empty space on the wall with no belt and I’m still trying to stay as humble as possible and professional. It’s hard.”