Ferguson, of course, focused most of his attention on his next opponent, Beneil Dariush, who at first looked a little surprised that Ferguson was on the attack in advance of Saturday’s pay-per-view fight at Toyota Center in Houston.
Dariush took heat after he called attention to the fact that Ferguson seemed more interested in calling out former UFC champ Khabib Nurmaogmedov than talking about their co-headliner.
“I think Tony needs to recognize that I’m in front of him,” Dariush told MMA Fighting. “He needs to not worry about Khabib right now.”
“Hey homie, I already know that you went to go help Justin Gaethje,” Ferguson interjected. “You’re a little b*tch for going out there and help him fight for the title. I didn’t know you did that. You listen to Ali Abdelaziz and he manipulated your ass.”
For Dariush, there was a very logical reason he came to Gaethje’s aid for an interim title fight with Ferguson at UFC 248: he was asked.
“If you would have asked me for help, I would have helped you, too,” he said.
Ferguson wasn’t interested in that gesture, of course. The former interim champ, who lost in devastating fashion to Gaethje in his second crack at interim gold, accused Dariush of conspiring like his old house mates on The Ultimate Fighter 13.
“What?” Dariush replied incredulously.
“Basically, you can’t bring anybody inside that octagon with you, kid,” Ferguson continued. “You think you f*cking know me. You want to do spinning sh*t. You think I’m unorthodox. Kid, I’m going to hit you so f*cking hard.”
“I love it, Tony,” Dariush replied. “I want to see it. I want to see every bit of it. ... I hope you show up like you say you do.”
“I’m going to slam you,” Ferguson said. “I’m going to slam you like I did my student. I broke his f*cking rib.”
“Well, that’s a dick move, bud,” Dariush replied. “Why would you do that do your own student?”
“Because he made me do it,” Ferguson explained.
At no point did Dariush appear to let any of what Ferguson was saying get under skin. It was too much out of left field – or considering Ferguson’s character, right down center field – to get too upset by any of the verbal jabs coming his way.
It was just enough to let Dariush he was in for a fight. He never expected anything less.
“Honestly, I wasn’t even sure what I was going to get from Tony, but I’m glad that I got it,” he said.
When they faced off before cameras, Ferguson bounced around like he was warming up for a scrap. But then he extended his hand, and the two exchanged a token of respect.
Sitting next to Ferguson at the press conference was Charles Oliveira, who will get to vie for the undisputed UFC lightweight title, a belt that’s eluded him in a decade-long octagon career. To get back on the path to gold, he’s going to need to halt another surging fighter in Dariush, who’s won six straight.