“I saw him grimace, and I went for the same thing, and he just went into zombie mode and started kicking me,” Dariush told reporters after his shutout decision win on Saturday. “I was like, ‘Fine, I’ll come on top, you jerk.’”
Dariush was still amazed when he took the stage for the post-fight press conference.
“How do you not tap to that heel hook? His knee popped, and it popped loud,” he said. “I saw his face change for a second, and then he went back to normal, and he started kicking me in the body. That upkick he hit me with? That was pretty good.”
Although it appeared to be a foul, Ferguson’s shot was one bright spot in a performance where he was shut down over 15 minutes. Judges awarded Dariush unanimous 30-27 scores for domination that largely was exerted on the canvas.
Dariush said he had prepared for a standup fight with the former interim champ, but when it became clear he had the upper hand when he put Ferguson down, he didn’t see the need to swim against the current.
“I also told you I wanted to be a champion, and to be a champion, you’ve got to stick to the gameplan,” he said. “It’s not always being a bonus fighter. I really felt like I had such a big advantage in the grappling. At the end of the first round, I felt his arms tired. And I said, ‘Why am I going to strike with this guy if I have such an advantage here?’”
Ferguson, who on Saturday lost his third straight bout since a 12-fight winning streak was halted by a brutal TKO loss to Justin Gaethje, did not appear at the post-fight press conference. UFC President Dana White was also shocked at Ferguson’s toughness, saying the fighter’s ankle “looked like a golf ball” after the heel hook.
Dariush was clearly happy with his win. At the same time, he was a little concerned for his opponent’s wellbeing.
“I don’t even want to guess,” he said when asked about Ferguson’s potential injuries. “I hope nothing happened to his knee. Because that’s where you ACL goes. When you go for a heel hook and it pops like that, your ACL could be gone. I know he’s a superhuman, but I don’t want that on anybody. I hope he’s fine.”
The crowd at Toyota Center was not happy about what he did to Ferguson over three rounds. But Dariush said as long as they’re consistent, he won’t take it personally.
“They better not be fickle,” he said. “The same fans that just cheered Tony on like that, they better cheer for him every single fight. I better not see those comments like, ‘Oh, he’s done. He’s this, he’s that.’ If you’re going to support him, support him throughout his entire his career. If you’re going to be a Tony fan, be a Tony fan for life. I see so many negative comments online, it makes you want to stay away from it.”