Tony Ferguson didn’t have a lot to say at UFC 274’s pre-fight press conference, but he did make his words count.
A day after venting his frustrations with the UFC and its president Dana White in an explosive appearance at UFC 274 media day, the former interim lightweight champion continued that conversation in front of a packed house at Phoenix’s Arizona Federal Theatre. When asked if he was going to lobby White to once again raise the promotion’s customary post-fight bonuses from $50,000 to $75,000 just as he famously did before UFC 262, Ferguson instead called upon the UFC to supply its fighters with health insurance.
“I’d say let’s get some insurance for these fighters,” Ferguson said.
“Let’s raise the tier up. You know what I mean? When they did the Reebok [uniform] deal [in 2014], they had tiers, so how many fights you had inside the octagon. I’d say we do the same thing, man. We all have families, we all have to support our systems, and let’s do that s***, man. I don’t know, Dana’s not here, but [let’s get] insurance.”
.@TonyFergusonXT wants health insurance for UFC fighters, while @Justin_Gaethje wants bigger bonuses... and health insurance #UFC274 pic.twitter.com/IjkdD1yKKE— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) May 6, 2022
The UFC’s former sponsorship deal with Reebok — and current deal with Venum — allocated money out to athletes in tiers depending on their tenure with the promotion. The more fights an athlete had with the UFC, the higher their sponsorship payout.
UFC fighters are classified as independent contractors and currently only receive formalized health insurance for instances in which a fighter is injured in a bout or while preparing for a scheduled bout — a point of contention which heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou has taken up as well during his contract standoff with the UFC.
Ferguson’s renewed calls on Thursday drew a quick nod of agreement from Justin Gaethje, who is slated to challenge Charles Oliveira for the lightweight title on Saturday; although Gaethje also didn’t mind speaking up for the original question posed to Ferguson as well.
“I want bigger bonuses,” Gaethje said. “Bigger bonuses, for sure. And health insurance. But bigger bonuses.”
“I’m a grown ass man,” Ferguson responded. “I have to look [out] for my family, so insurance is cool with me.”
Ferguson is set to face former Bellator champion Michael Chandler in a featured bout on UFC 274’s pay-per-view card.
At 38 years old and reeling from a three-fight losing skid, Ferguson knows the odds are stacked against him at UFC 274. But the longtime contender, who was once considered to be one of the best lightweights in the world, isn’t paying any mind to the pressure of the moment.
“I’m having fun now. This is actually really fun. I’m excited,” Ferguson said.
“I’m excited to just to go in there and do exactly how I visualized this on the drive out here — that’s getting my hand raised in victory.”
Ferguson’s opponent, Chandler, finds himself in a similarly pressurized situation after dropping back-to-back bouts against Gaethje and Oliveira in his last two UFC fights.
A win on Saturday would catapult Chandler back into the title picture, while a loss could torpedo his title hopes for the foreseeable future. And he knows nothing will come easy against the man they call “El Cucuy.”
“That’s what I’ve said since the very beginning, that’s why this fight wakes me up early, and that’s why this fight scares me, and that’s why this fight has motivated me — Tony Ferguson is a certified one-of-one talent,” Chandler said.
“He’s hard to prepare for. Nobody in the gym can show me that look. And I think there is a method to his madness, and his win streaks have showed it. I’m going to go out there and compete, and hopefully get a finish.”