The Next Great UFC Star: Tony Ferguson

Next Great UFC Star - Tony Ferguson

“El Cucuy”, if you’re not familiar with the term refers to a mythical ghost-monster similar to the boogeyman in various Spanish-speaking cultures. I can’t think of a fighter who has proven the worth of their nickname as many times as Tony Ferguson.

At first glance, this brilliant weirdo appears to be a gangly clumsy man with “bad” technique. Upon further examination, though, the absoluteness of Tony’s mindset and application of his martial arts skills make him one of if not the best 155-pound fighter in the world.

Keep in mind, it was less than 8 months ago when “El Cucuy” was the Lightweight Champion of the world and has still yet to lose a fight in 6 and a half years!

Yes, you read that correctly and Tony didn’t win the belt until October of 2017. That’s 5.5 years undefeated until he got a title shot, and after an impressive corner stoppage of Anthony Pettis last month, it’s mind-boggling that the UFC would consider anyone else for the next title shot.

Okay, let’s backtrack a little.

Maybe the UFC’s reasoning isn’t a far-fetched as one might imagine. Just follow the money. A fight with GSP or even a rematch with Conor McGregor would make the company more money without a doubt.

The Tony Ferguson vs Khabib Nurmagomedov fight should have happened several times already, and UFC President Dana White may have lost his patience on this one.

We still have to wait for Khabib’s day in court next month with the Nevada State Athletic Commision. He could be suspended for up to 6 months. That’s what I’m hearing, at least.

If this happens, the fight to make isn’t Cowboy vs Conor, it’s Tony vs Conor.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the mind, body, and, spirit of the maniacal fighting genius, Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson.


As long and strong as Tony Ferguson may be, his mind may be his biggest strength. Not unlike his Lightweight foe, “The Notorious” Conor McGregor, Tony prides himself on his uniqueness.

One of my favorite quotes from McGregor is “They don’t move like I move and they don’t tink like I tink.”

Tink about it.

He’s right.

Tony and Conor are not the same men in a multitude of regards but they both employ this concept just as well if not better than anyone in combat sports today.

If you train like everyone else, you will fight like everyone else.

Tony has always been a massive Bruce Lee fan and considers himself a lifelong student of the legendary Lee.

Bruce said it best when he told an interviewer that “Style is a crystallization” and that the best style was no style.

How can your opponent exploit a set of patterns that don’t exist?

“El Cucuy’s” constant dedication to making himself unpredictable is unmatched in fighting today.


Man, looking at Tony Ferguson, I still can’t believe he is 5’11”. How is not six feet tall? I’ve never seen him in person, but what a rangy fighter!

With a wingspan of 76.5 inches, he is built like an orangutan.

Most of you guys know this, but an average wingspan for a person is roughly the same as their height.

The width of your shoulders accounts for part of it and the rest comes from the length of your arms. I have long arms but narrow shoulders so my reach matches my height.

Tony’s reach is 5.5 more inches than his height as he has broad shoulders and very long arms, both of which have numerous grappling and striking advantages.

Broad shoulders help you generate more power on your punches and position against the cage almost always comes down to the broader shoulders and larger frame.

Tony reminds me a lot of a guy I train and teach with currently, Caleb McAllister.

Caleb and I started training MMA about the same time nearly 14 years ago. Technique or making things look pretty have never ever come easy for him, but his combination of length, strength, and overall awkwardness is something that will give any fighter a hard time.

Caleb now competes as a pro grappler against some of the best guys in the world almost every week.

I can’t say this for sure, but I would go as far to believe that Tony wasn’t a natural at this stuff. He had a strong wrestling background from high school, but that’s par for the course in the UFC nowadays.

Tony Ferguson has improved his skills and the application of such techniques more than anyone has done in their prospective fighting careers. I realize that’s merely just an opinion, but he is definitely in the conversation.


While I’m not sold on Tony’s mind-body connection early in his career, his spirit, I believe, has been unwavering since birth.

You can’t teach heart. It’s really that simple.

An athlete can improve their mental toughness significantly through willing themselves just a little bit past their breaking point each time they are tested.

When a fighter is hurt badly with a shot to the head or even the liver, the conscious mind goes limp and the athlete must rely on the paradigm of their subconscious mind.

If the person has ever quit in their life, they are likely to do it again in this instance.

Tony has never ever shown an ounce of quit.

He has the spirit of a lion.

Khabib vs Tony?

I touched on this a bit earlier. This fight really needs to happen.

Many fans, as well as UFC Pres Dana White, would have loved to have had this one in the books already.

There has been a myriad of reasons on each side that the fight hasn’t happened from injuries to weight cutting issues, the fight seems rather cursed.

As for the fight itself, I feel like Tony may be Khabib’s kryptonite. Khabib hasn’t faced a submission artist the caliber of Tony nor has he went up against a physical freak of “El Cucuy’s” nature.

Khabib hasn’t shown any mental weakness in his fights, but he hasn’t really been tested either. He only lost his first round ever in his title fight with McGregor last month.

I feel like Tony is tougher because we have actually seen him go through the fire, rise up and defeat opponents that had him dead to rights only moments before.

His long awkward striking creates havoc for anyone and Khabib could walk into some kick the world has never seen outside of a temple in the deepest darkest China.

If they make this fight, give me Tony. He will be the underdog, but that just means more money!

Conor vs Tony?

This is much more of a dream matchup for me than the aforementioned bout w Khabib.

Tony has been active on Twitter lately seemingly calling out “McNugget” as he likes to say.

He isn’t just talking, though.

Check out this flow this flow on the pads from the RVCA gym in Orange County, California!

Remember me saying that these two are similar but different?

Well, both men are unorthodox. That makes them different and similar.

Conor isn’t afraid to throw a wheel or tornado kick and Tony has even been known to do a rolling thunder in his day (essentially a somersault towards your opponent as you slam your heels towards their dome).

Tony has a funky, funky grappling game where he does things he’s not “supposed” to do. I feel like Conor will initially defend Tony’s potential attempted takedowns, but “El Cucuy’s” virtually unlimited supply of transitions will prove to be the difference.

Once they are on the ground, I think Tony finds Conor’s neck and he will be much more ruthless with the throwing of his bones than we saw from Khabib.

In Conclusion

Tony Ferguson, as big as his personality is, always seems to be the forgotten man in the UFC’s Lightweight Division.

Undefeated for going on seven years is almost unheard of inside the UFC, much less in arguably its most talent-rich weight class.

Mr. Ferguson is a force. He has never claimed to be pretty like McGregor and has never been content with merely controlling his opponent ala Khabib Nurmagomedov at times.

“El Cucuy” wants your soul first. Then he’s coming for your chin and/or your neck.

Defeat the heart and the mind will follow suit.

After that happens, the body wilts.

To defeat Tony Ferguson, you’re going to need to go straight for the chin or neck. You can’t take his soul.

Mike Pruitt / Author

Mike has been covering sports professionally since 2017 but on the amateur scene for 25 years since when he was 12. Before the internet changed the world, he would keep detailed statistical box scores of NFL and NBA contests, write recaps, and voluntarily commentate games and fights alone in his room. Mike's military experience, Bachelors Degree, and employment thereafter were always rooted in engineering, science, and teaching. Now he enjoys being able to express himself through writing about football, golf, and car racing among other sports but most of all fighting as his life has been rooted in mixed martial arts including competing and teaching for the past 15 years.