Paddy Pimblett is looking forward to Tony Ferguson riding off into the sunset with his hand raised. Someday.
Right now, “The Baddy” has one thing in mind and that’s sending Ferguson to a seventh straight loss when they lock horns at UFC 296 this Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Pimblett is one of MMA’s most talked-about stars, while the 39-year-old Ferguson is in search of his first win since 2019.
Ferguson, a former interim lightweight champion, has balked at the suggestion of retirement, but Pimblett hopes that when Ferguson hangs up the gloves in the future, it’s following a victory.
“It’s an honor to be able to fight Tony Ferguson,” Pimblett said at UFC 296 media day on Wednesday. “One of the best lightweights of all-time. When I was a kid watching UFC at 15, 16, when I just started training, he was in the UFC then. I was watching him fight then. So it’s like that cliché saying when your heroes become your rivals. It’s one of them. Even I want to see Tony go out on a win, but I can’t let him do it at my expense. It’s not happening.”
In his prime, Ferguson was unquestionably one of the best lightweights in the world. From 2013 to 2019, he recorded 12 consecutive victories and claimed an interim UFC belt, before finally being stopped by Justin Gaethje at UFC 249. “El Cucuy” has been winless since.
Though it’s clear that Ferguson has lost a step after years of back-and-forth wars, Pimblett is preparing for the best version of his opponent.
“That’s what happens when you get to that age,” Pimblett said. “He’s 40 in a few months and I think over the years he’s relied on his athleticism and his speed to get him out of certain situations and obviously when you get to 39 you lose all that. But I’ve trained for the Tony that turned up against Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis and Edson Barboza and Kevin Lee. I haven’t prepared for the Tony that turned up against Bobby Green and Nate Diaz.”
There’s no telling what state Ferguson will be in on fight night as he looks to end his slump, but the veteran has garnered plenty of headlines with the news that he has been training with popular fitness guru David Goggins. Pimblett isn’t sure to what extent that partnership will benefit Ferguson, but he does know that when it comes to mental warfare, he has the edge.
“One of me mates said to me, ‘Tony’s on his way to Vegas,’” Pimblett said. “I was like, ‘Is he?’ I went to look at his [Instagram] story and he blocked me. Bit of a weird one, shows I’m in his head.”
Pimblett’s career has been heading in the opposite direction of Ferguson’s. Since a loss to Soren Bak in September 2018, Pimblett has won six straight fights, including a 4-0 start to his UFC career. A controversial decision win over Jared Gordon in his most recent outing at UFC 282 has only motivated him further to silence his critics.
When he finally comes face-to-face with Ferguson, he’ll be fully focused on the task at hand.
“It’ll be a little bit surreal, but at the same time, as I always say, it doesn’t matter,” Pimblett said when asked about fighting someone he idolizes. “The only people that matter in that moment is me, him, and the referee. No one else on this earth matters and I’ll show that on the night.”
Source : MMAFighting