The last time Tony Ferguson sat on stage at a UFC press conference, he took aim at his upcoming opponent Michael Chandler by saying he received “Dana White privilege” after he was granted a title shot in only his second bout with the promotion.
The comment got a reaction from everybody in attendance not to mention UFC president Dana White, who couldn’t help but chuckle at the play on words, but Ferguson admits now that there was no comedy behind what he was saying.
“I don’t think that s*** is very funny,” Ferguson said at UFC 274 media day. “You do maybe. I don’t think it’s very funny. Everybody is looking at it, they’re smiling and laughing at it but nobody’s saying s***.
“I’m the one up here with Dana Brown privilege or whatever the f*** you want to call it. I don’t think it’s very funny anymore. I don’t think you should think that’s very funny. So I’m taking this weekend very f****** seriously. So I’ll kick this Dana White boy’s ass.”
According to Ferguson, his problems aren’t directly related to Chandler but rather the UFC as a whole due to a multitude of issues he’s faced over his career with the promotion.
“Nothing personal against Chandler,” Ferguson said. “But I’m going to be real, I’m tired of the retaliation tactics from the company.”
Amongst his biggest complaints, Ferguson pointed towards overall pay for the fighters, which has become a central issue for the UFC’s biggest critics.
As the promotion continued to report record profits both during and after the pandemic, calls for higher fighter pay have echoed even louder, particularly with social influencers like Jake Paul taking up the cause while personally going after White over the past couple of years.
In Ferguson’s case, he took umbrage with White recently complaining that boxers were being overpaid but then not allowing UFC fighters to actually go earn some of that same money in a different sport.
“I think we’re underpaid, personally, I’m going to be real,” Ferguson said. “I’m not going to say too much. Dana said something the other day, it’s on my phone, I think it’s from MMA Fighting actually reposted it talking about how boxers being overpaid. I asked Dana to box, he said f*** no. I’m like why? I want to go play baseball, I want to go do other pro sports. I’m an athlete. I grew up doing different pro sports at a very high level. I won a state championship in football, we were 27-1. I come from Grand Valley State University as a wrestler, I want to go do wrestling. I’ve got uncle Brock [Lesnar] that’s right there watching me.
“I want to go do all these couple things but then I have this guy right here acting like a f****** drug dealer, telling me I can’t go do this s***. I want to go make more money for my family.”
Ferguson also mentioned a situation that arose for him back in 2018 when he was scheduled to clash with Khabib Nurmagomedov to crown an undisputed lightweight champion after he had claimed an interim title a few months earlier.
Just days before he was scheduled to compete, Ferguson tripped over a wire during a pre-fight media tour and the freak accident tore his knee apart, forcing him to undergo major reconstructive surgery.
As a result, Ferguson was pulled from the fight and his interim title was taken away from him while Nurmagomedov went onto battle Al Iaquinta in a fight that determined a new UFC lightweight champion.
“I took a bad fall at FOX, they took my title from me,” Ferguson said. “I should have sued. But what I did was I felt good for my company, I wanted to be the man. I wanted to make sure everybody knew that I could f****** do this stuff without anybody else’s help.
“That’s a little bit of a chip of my shoulder. To keep coming in here and smiling, to be used on a poster and to have that high value.”
Much like he said about White, Ferguson can’t help but feel the same for the UFC as an entire organization when it comes to the treatment of the fighters where it feels like everyone is just another cog in the machine.
“The promoters here act like drug dealers sometimes,” Ferguson said. “They just throw down a couple bucks here and there like ‘come here, kid — here, take this, take this, take this’ — and if you don’t have the will to say no to that stupid s*** you’re going to get f*****.”
Apparently this has all been a long time coming with Ferguson admitting that he’s been stewing on these thoughts quite a bit during his year away from the sport.
Now with a chance to speak about everything that’s been happening, Ferguson is no longer biting his tongue.
“You guys are listening now,” Ferguson said. “That’s interesting. This is why I haven’t done any interviews. This is why I’ve kept my mouth shut for a long time. A lot of fighters have been keeping their mouth shut for a long time.
“You should ask the other fighters that have been f***** treated like s*** for a long time, too, cause I’m not the only one thinking or f****** saying it or seeing it. Maybe you should ask them, too.”