Tony Ferguson, welcome back?
In a bizarre, angry, head-spinning ride marking the return of the Orange County-based former UFC interim lightweight champion, Ferguson immediately invoked the anti-media motto of Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch in a scheduled Wednesday gathering with reporters at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas — “I am just here because I have to be here” — and then railed at being deprived of a title shot and purse money.
“It has been five months since my [knee] injury, it took a long … time for me to be here. They took my belt. They took a bunch of zeros from my paycheck. How do you think I … feel?” he asked.
“People want to call me weird and want to … cringe and want to use my stuff without giving me any credit. I am the … champ. See this gold right here, I didn’t lose my belt. They took it from me.”
Ferguson was named interim lightweight champion a year ago this month after then-full champion Conor McGregor had taken a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr. Ferguson was due to fight Russia’s unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov in April but tore up his knee walking through a Fox television parking lot, and watched Nurmagomedov become full champion by dominating replacement opponent Al Iaquinta.
The enigmatic Ferguson (25-3) has won 10 consecutive fights dating to a 2012 defeat, and he’s in the Saturday co-main event on UFC 229 under McGregor-Nurmagomedov while fighting former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.
But things — many things — are eating at him.
Did he take sufficient time to heal?
“You are not me. You can’t think like me,” he answered. “I don’t expect you guys to think like me, because you can’t. All you guys do is sit there and poke your cameras and questions at these guys, when really you should be turning the cameras on yourselves.”
Ultimately, he brought his rant back to explain, “I am up here as a new man. Like a Phoenix. Reborn. I am on fire, guys,” scolding a reporter who dared to sneak in a question. “Hold on, I am not done yet.
“Don’t be rude. I am the … champ up here. Recognize that. If I have got my … shorts on, it doesn’t matter what I am wearing, you give me my respect. I told you guys you wouldn’t like me when I got to the spot. I am no pushover, man. I work hard for my stuff.
“I have been working my [rear] off for five months. I lost a really good friend because he [overdosed] on some [stuff]. When you have things in your life that happen, it is a different kind of pace in your head. This is a rat race, but I am not rat. I am a turtle. A ninja turtle. Which one is your favorite? I like Michelangelo.”
He picks McGregor to defeat Nurmagomedov but criticized the Irishman for not mentioning Ferguson’s name and building a stronger fan base than the one Ferguson believes he deserves.
“He is a piece of … chicken … terrorist with a dolly,” Ferguson said of McGregor. “I am an American Mexican dude with no support from my country because you have to have an accent for that.”
Asked to assess why he doesn’t have more support from Mexican American fans, Ferguson answered, “You are not even Mexican American. Next question.”