The UFC 279 main event saw Diaz submit Ferguson with a guillotine choke in the fourth round in a bout that was contested primarily on the feet. Both men had their moments in what turned out to be a wild and unpredictable headliner (fitting, given the circumstances under which it came together) but it was Ferguson’s takedown attempt that led to the fight-ending submission that stuck out in his mind after the fight.
“I should have kept it standing,” Ferguson said at the evening’s post-fight press conference. “Period. Got to discuss somethings with my cornermen. Nothing bad. Nobody’s getting fired, nobody’s doing f****** bad. It’s just some adjustments, it’s a new game for me, mixing it up, putting the MMA together. My [originally scheduled opponent], Li [Jingliang], was a right-hander. If I would have went for the takedown [against Li] it would have been more difficult for him to do that kind of stuff, but Nate, he prepared for Khamzat [Chimaev]. You saw Khamzat when he took down Kevin Holland. He went, took him out on the right side, it was a right-handed opponent, it was on his lead jab. He went straight, put him down.
“I guarantee you Nate was looking for that guillotine the whole entire camp. They had a full camp to be able to do stuff. It is what you practice. We did a lot of wrestling practice and we did a lot of good stuff. It was just unfortunate, s*** happens. I wish it would have made it to the fifth round. I know what to do better next time. It f****** sucks.”
Ferguson trained with the famous Jackson Wink MMA team in New Mexico ahead of UFC 279, with the camp focusing on his originally scheduled opponent Li Jingliang. The change followed a brutal knockout loss to Michael Chandler at UFC 274 this past May, a setback that marked Ferguson’s fourth straight loss.
Saturday’s main event was a competitive affair and Ferguson had success in the standup, even leading the fight on one judge’s scorecard heading into Round 4. There were plenty of shenanigans too, with Diaz turning his back on Ferguson and at one point appearing to have a conversation with someone outside of the cage, while Ferguson matched that odd behavior by briefly dropping to his back in an attempt to lure Diaz to engage with him in the center of the octagon.
For Ferguson, all of it was just fun and games.
“We didn’t say nothing,” Ferguson said when asked if they talked during the fight. “I kicked him in the shin, he was like, ‘Owwww.’ You know what I mean? It was just a lot of having fun. I hope you guys had a lot of fun. I haven’t had a fight like that ever. It was the coolest experience I probably could have had being in front of everybody, being the most calm, super chill, bringing it out there. There were a lot of quick finishes before so it wasn’t like we got a s***** warm-up. Although when I go in the back and I put my hoodie on it was like an extra small, so it was kind of weird, but like I said none of this stuff matters.
“It’s what you do outside there. It’s seeing the crowd, seeing everybody that was right there, it was dope. It felt like it was back where I needed to be. I haven’t felt like that for a f****** long time. Mentally strong, physically strong, emotionally strong. I feel good. I’m ready for the next one.”
Ferguson and Diaz made it clear ahead of, during, and after the fight that they have immense respect for each other, with Diaz calling Ferguson “a worthy OG representative of mixed martial arts” in his post-fight interview. According to Ferguson, an invitation has already been extended for him to train with the Diaz brothers in the future.
“I got the invite to their camp,” Ferguson said. “So I’m going to be real, which is super cool. I’ve got my own camp, which is awesome, but I’m not going to say no to them. Those guys are pretty f****** cool.
“We run California and we do a lot for this sport. So as much as we would want to fight, we had to make things right for the UFC and the contracts and stuff, but I wish him nothing but the best, him and Nick [Diaz] and their whole entire crew. They’re tough and it’s cool as s*** to be a part of that vibe that’s right there. Like I said, ‘El Cucuy’ is a legend, I’m not going f****** nowhere.”