After putting together an unprecedented 12-fight win streak in the lightweight division, Tony Ferguson has now suffered back-to-back losses for the first time in his career.
On Saturday night at UFC 256, the former interim champion was largely dominated by Charles Oliveira over three rounds, although Ferguson definitely showed incredible toughness and durability while surviving some difficult moments.
Nothing was worse than an armbar attempt from Oliveira in the closing seconds in the first round but despite his elbow bending beyond what appeared to be the breaking point, Ferguson refused to give up.
Afterwards, UFC president Dana White commended Ferguson for gutting it out through that submission attempt but he still lost a lopsided decision to Oliveira after three rounds.
“I thought we were going to see the old Tony,” White said at the UFC 256 post-fight press conference. “I thought that the last fight [against Justin Gaethje] he was affected by weight cutting. I mean 10 out of 10 people tap to that armbar. The fact that he even made it through the armbar is unbelievable.
“Just a testament to how tough and durable and crazy Tony Ferguson is.”
At 36, time is not on Ferguson’s side when he returns to compete again but White isn’t ready to write him off just because he’s lost his last two fights in a row.
He fell to Justin Gaethje, who became interim lightweight champion in that fight and Ferguson just lost to Oliveira as he’s currently riding an eight-fight win streak of his own.
There is certainly no shame in losing to fighters of that caliber but White is quick to point out that sometimes there’s just no rhyme or reason why an athlete begins to decline.
“Of course that’s possible,” White said about Ferguson already seeing his best days behind him. “But Tony needs to go home and spend the holidays with his family, take some time off and think about what he wants to do next year. We’ll see what’s next for him. Every time you fight in this business, that’s always possible.
“I mean Tony’s a guy that’s got to go take some time. Figure out what he wants to do, what’s his game plan for 2021. I think Tony’s still a couple fights away from making any crazy decisions like that.”
Considering the win streak he put together to reach the top of the division, Ferguson could still find a way to regain his position as a title challenger one day.
That said it appears all hope that Ferguson will one day battle Khabib Nurmagomedov has been dashed.
The highly anticipated battle between the lightweights was scheduled on five separate occasions and each time some kind of disaster struck that prevented Ferguson and Nurmagomedov from actually clashing inside the octagon.
“It just didn’t [happen],” White lamented when asked about the fight. “It wasn’t from lack of trying. We put that fight together five times. It just wasn’t meant to be. I don’t think about it at all.”