UFC lightweight Tony Ferguson’s attire matched his mood as he met reporters at a Century City restaurant before his Oct. 7 title fight on the UFC 216 card.
Ferguson sported a black sweatshirt hood pulled over his head and kept his Ray-Ban sunglasses on inside as he discussed his upcoming fight.
“I’m just here because I have to be. I’ve spent about a month in the mountains,” Ferguson said. “This whole trip, I’ve kicked steel poles, beat the … out of myself and really pushed myself to the limit.
“It wasn’t going to matter who it was. I could be fighting [former heavyweight champion Fabricio] Werdum for a title and I’d kick this guy’s ... .”
A few minutes later, an unexpected showdown nearly occurred when Ferguson and Werdum began a heated verbal exchange with Werdum picking up a wooden chair as if he planned on throwing it across the room. He later admitted he considered punching Ferguson.
“I don’t understand … I said hi to him today and his energy was dark … I don’t know if he’s losing weight, if it’s the pressure of his fight being the main event,” Werdum said. “He’s a different guy… . Now, I hate this guy.”
Ferguson (23-3) takes a nine-fight winning streak into the main event against Kevin Lee in the interim lightweight title fight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The interim belt is on the line because the division’s champion, Conor McGregor, hasn’t fought a 155-pound mixed martial arts bout since November, when he took the belt from Eddie Alvarez by second-round knockout.
After that, he made an estimated $100 million by losing to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in an Aug. 26 novelty boxing match.
Ferguson, 33, has been off since November too, but without the luxury of McGregor's riches, thanks to unbeaten lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov falling ill before their March weigh-in.
In the middle of Ferguson answering a question, he heard Werdum’s voice next to him and said, “Hold on, I’m talking brother … .”
Then, tempers began to flare and Ferguson referred to Werdum as “fake.”
“Callate la boca!” Ferguson told Werdum in Spanish, which translates to “Shut your mouth.”
Werdum began to rise, saying he responded with “all the things in Spanish, Portugese, I mixed everything because, man, my blood was flowing. I came here with good energy and this guy [wants to] break everything. His energy is bad.
“Just because I’m a heavyweight and he’s a lightweight, he can say anything he wants? No, this is not true, man.”
Orange County trained Werdum (21-7-1) reigned as UFC heavyweight champion until losing his belt to Stipe Miocic last year and he’ll meet Derrick Lewis on the pay-per-view undercard of UFC 214.
A UFC official escorted the agitated Werdum away from the table where he and Ferguson were due to jointly discuss their separate fights with reporters.
“Have fun fighting on my undercard,” Ferguson told Werdum.
Ferguson explained later that he doesn’t like Werdum’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, who also manages Nurmagomedov.
Ferguson had been talking of his extensive training camp in Big Bear, where he said he conquered an 8,800-foot-high peak while running with a 50-pound pack and lifting 100-pound boulders up there.
He has good cause to be frustrated by Nurmagomedov’s March withdrawal and talk that McGregor will return to next fight Nate Diaz in their trilogy bout instead of Ferguson.
“Rankings go out the window [and] everything else that [the UFC] stands for. It’s not going to change what I do,” Ferguson said. “When that time comes, I’ll make them feel guilty.”
He said he also didn’t appreciate his own management team, Paradigm, for backtracking on an agreement not to let McGregor fight at lightweight.
“I kind of find that as a conflict of interest,” Ferguson said. “I’m pissed. I’ve got a chip on my shoulder.”
Ferguson said he's resolved to simply keep winning, making a point of his commitment by showing he was drinking pressed juice and a fruit bowl, not the meat on Werdum’s plate.
“It doesn’t matter who they put in front of me,” Ferguson said. “This is my time. I earned my way here.
"And I told you guys you weren’t going to like me when I got to this spot.”