Discussing Ferguson’s recent loss to Charles Oliveira on a recent episode of the Believe You Me podcast, Bisping expressed concern over the damage that Ferguson has taken throughout his career and the unfavorable results he’s seen in his past two outings against Oliveira and Justin Gaethje.
“Against Justin Gaethje he got out-struck and then against Charles Oliveira he essentially for the most part got out-grappled,” Bisping said (h/t MMA News). “I’m kind of concerned for Tony Ferguson. Of course, he doesn’t want my sympathy, he doesn’t need my concern, he doesn’t want me talking about him like this, but I’m just curious about where he’s gonna go now as a fighter and I do feel for him. It’s hard. When you’re a guy like Tony Ferguson or anybody in the UFC that’s at the top of the food chain for so long and you’re one of the guys, you’re one of the main guys in that division for so long, and then to see this fall from grace if you will, to get dominated two times in a row.
“Charles Oliveira, for all the skill that he has and I said he was massively underappreciated, is not one of the guys that you think of as the stars of the division. He will be now, but he wasn’t prior to this fight. I just hope that Tony Ferguson deals with this well, I hope has a good team around him.”
Consecutive defeats are completely alien to Ferguson, who has been a dominant force at 155 pounds for the better part of the last decade. Before losing to Gaethje in May, “El Cucuy” won 12 straight fights in one MMA’s deepest divisions, knocking off the likes of Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, Kevin Lee, Rafael dos Anjos, Edson Barboza, and Josh Thomson.
While Bisping made sure to praise Ferguson, he also emphasized the need for caution going forward.
“I just think the real story of what we’re seeing here is the rapid decline of Tony Ferguson because the human body can only take so much and Tony has been such a warrior for the UFC,” Bisping said. “I’ve got nothing bad to say about Tony Ferguson—and what I’m about to say, if I’m Tony, could be perceived as that way and that’s not what I’m trying to do—I have nothing but respect for Tony Ferguson. He is a true fighter. He’s an absolute warrior. He’s put on some sensational performances inside the octagon, but he’s also taken a lot of damage and often because he’s so f*cking tough he’s able to outlast his opponents, he takes this amount of damage, and then he puts the hurt on them and he gets the win. And it’s always in spectacular fashion, that’s why he gets so many bonuses.
“But my point and my theory is that you can only take so much. The human body has an expiry date. Okay, he’s not getting flatlined, he’s not getting knocked out, but he’s taking a lot of damage, he’s starting to slow down, he’s not looking quite as snappy, he’s not quite as explosive, and of course, he just lost two fights.”
Bisping added the caveat that losses to Gaethje and Oliveira are nothing to be ashamed of as he believes that those two can beat almost any lightweight on the planet not named Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Regardless of whether Ferguson’s losses are a sign of a greater problem or simply the consequences of facing top competition, Bisping would like to see Ferguson—who turns 37 in February—take some time off before returning to competition.
“If we know Tony Ferguson, he’s not the type of guy to sit around and say, ‘No no no, I’m done, I’ve taken too much damage,’” Bisping said. “No, he’s gonna say the opposite, he’s gonna say, ‘No, I’m fine. I just got beaten.’ Maybe there were some mistakes in camp or whatever. Tony’s not gonna accept that he’s on the decline. That’s what fighters do. Fighters never accept that. Fighters need somebody else, a third party to step in. A manager, a loved one, a wife, a coach, a friend, president of the UFC, who knows, we’ve seen that happen many times, to step in and say, ‘Tony, Tony, Tony, you’ve taken a lot of damage these days.’
“Because he can still compete and it’s only two losses. Back then it was 2012 before he got beat again, but I am posing the question and I do feel that the amount of punishment he’s taken over the course of his career is starting to catch up with him.”