UFC President Dana White calls Tony Ferguson a “special human being” for being able to absorb as much punishment as he did against Justin Gaethje at UFC 249. But he believes Ferguson may have been operating short of 100 percent.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Gaethje, because he fought an incredible fight,” White said at the UFC 249 post-fight press conference. “But I thought Tony looked off tonight. I thought he looked slow, and I would have to imagine that cutting weight twice in a month will affect you. So I don’t know if that’s it or what.
“The guy isn’t human. He’s got a chin. Nobody takes Gaethje’s punches like that – nobody I’ve seen since I’ve been watching Gaethje fight. But this kid did.”
Referee Herb Dean waved off the fight late in the fifth round after Ferguson took a stiff jab and shook his head as he wobbled back to the corner. He appeared badly dazed and off-balance as Gaethje closed in for the finish.
There was little controversy over Dean’s stoppage online, and White praised the veteran ref after the fight. But the UFC exec said one very notable voice was not happy with the turn of events.
“Chuck Liddell is blowing me up saying that was a horrible stoppage, and that’s crazy,” White said. “I think the fight could have been stopped a little sooner.
“Tony took a lot of damage tonight. Not only did he take a lot of damage, he took damage from a guy who f*cking hits like a truck, a guy who hits very hard, and usually knocks people unconscious when he hits people. So I actually think the stoppage was great, and I think it could have been stopped sooner.”
Ferguson said afterward that he’d been in training camp since this past November, when he started preparing for a fifth booking against champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. But when Nurmagomedov was stuck in Russia prior to an ill-fated April 18 date, the fight was canceled yet again, and Gaethje stepped in as a replacement.
The extra time Gaethje got when UFC 249 was postponed until May 9 only benefitted him in the octagon. In beating Ferguson, he scuttled one of the most anticipated lightweight fights in UFC history.
Even before UFC 249, White expressed hesitancy at booking Ferguson and Nurmagomedov a sixth time in the event of a Ferguson win. But now, he doesn’t have to make that choice. The fight between Gaethje and Nurmagomedov could take place in summer if all goes according to plan.
Asked whether the matchup is done for good, White said, “Well, for now it is.”