Tony Ferguson has a lot to get off his chest. Suffice to say, almost none of it would be tolerated among polite society.
It's a wonder, despite an insane 12-fight win streak within the sport's most dangerous division, Ferguson has yet to fight for the full UFC lightweight championship. Everything from chronic bad luck to injuries can be blamed for that.
It's even wilder that the brash native of Oxnard, California, whose nickname "El Cucuy" aptly translates in English to "The Mexican Boogeyman," has yet to become a crossover star.
Ferguson (25-3) just might achieve both on Saturday when he headlines, against Justin Gaethje (21-2) for the UFC interim title at 155 pounds.
Can't get enough UFC? Subscribe to our podcast State of Combat with Brian Campbell where we break down everything you need to know in the Octagon, including a complete preview of UFC 249 with 'Suga' Rashad Evans below.
Yes, there are plenty of elements to this fight that are unique, if not unprecedented. UFC 249, which will take place in front of an empty crowd amid the coronavirus outbreak, will serve as a guinea pig of sorts for the rest of the sports world to decide when (and if) to return. Ferguson will also be fighting for an interim title he already won back in 2017 (only to be unceremoniously stripped due to injury) and an opportunity to face champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0) he has previously secured five separate times yet the two have still never touched gloves.
Unable to fly commercially due to the global pandemic, Nurmagomedov made the decision last month to stay put in his native Russia and begin his observance of Ramadan, which pushes back his potential return to August. This is the topic which makes Ferguson turn ever so unabashedly into his alter ego.
"I'm going to be real, Khabib doesn't f---ing even exist to me right now," Ferguson said during Tuesday's UFC 249 teleconference. "That dude fell off the face of the f---ing earth along with McNuggets [Conor McGregor]. Those two are a bunch of f---ing bitches. The only two who signed on the dotted line are real f---ing men."
Ferguson and Nurmagomedov were originally scheduled to meet at UFC 249's original date of April 18 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. It's the same location of UFC's failed fourth attempt to pair them together for the full title in 2018 when a freak knee injury sidelined Ferguson the week of the fight.
Although he would make a miraculous comeback and return just six months after tearing the fibular collateral ligament of his knee, Ferguson was passed over by UFC to allow McGregor a shot at Nurmagomedov. One year earlier, a third attempt at Nurmagomedov-Ferguson fell apart one day before UFC 209 when Nurmagomedov was hospitalized due to a difficult weight cut (which Ferguson still blames on the tiramisu dessert Nurmagomedov was eating during a fight week picture that went viral).
All this misfortunate has only fueled the anger inside Ferguson. With his title window closing fast at age 36 and even UFC president Dana White saying last week during a Reddit AMA that he doubts a fight with Nurmagomedov happening in 2020 given their history, Ferguson was forced to make an executive decision.
With or without Nurmagomedov, UFC 249 will be Ferguson's long-awaited Super Bowl.
"F--- Khabib, I'm going to be real. F--- Khabib," Ferguson said. "I'm defending my belt for the third time. This is for the real belt, this is not for the interim title. This is for the championship. It's champ shit only.
"The next time I worry about what someone else is going to do is never. I'm the OG, original genius. I'm going to go out there and do my best and we are going to go out there and get that f---ing W. I'm a real champion -- every f---ing day and twice on Sunday."
Known for his sadistic training methods and impervious response to pain, Ferguson showcased just how serious he is on April 18. To celebrate the original date of the fight, heof 155 pounds.
Yet despite Ferguson's claim that, as far as he's concerned, he'll be defending his formerly stripped interim title on Saturday while capturing the full one in victory, it's hard to look past the unnecessary risk that he's taking.
Aside from monetary and potential celebrity acclaim, a Ferguson victory is still just a lateral step in the rankings, whereas a loss could cancel any hope at ever fighting for the title again. He'll also be facing the kind of opponent in Gaethje who takes a piece of your longevity with him when he leaves the Octagon, regardless of whether he wins.
Asked on Tuesday why he wouldn't just sit out and wait for Nurmagomedov to return, Ferguson responded with a sharp retort.
"I never wait, man. I always take every single opportunity," Ferguson said. "This one is not just for myself but for family and friends. I'm just trying to do my f---ing part to keep sports alive."
Ferguson compared his decision to accept the Gaethje fight as being no different than when he won "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 13 welterweight tournament in 2011 and never knew who his next opponent would be. Yet it's when he was asked whether a victory over Gaethje would send him into a Nurmagomedov fight for the sixth time that Ferguson outright snapped and interrupted the question.
"No comment. You can stop right there bro, I'm not going to answer that f---ing question," Ferguson said. "This is UFC 249 and it's about Justin Gaethje.
"Khabib sat down and walked away. He's a bitch. Him and McNuggets, they both need to f---ing retire. The only real men out there right now are me and Justin Gaethje, two American motherf---ers."
There may be a part of Ferguson that wonders whether he will be passed over a second time by UFC in favor of McGregor considering the first Nurmagomedov-McGregor fight shattered pay-per-view records. Should that be part of White's thinking, Ferguson's decision to go all-in on himself and make his own luck happen on Saturday looks far less reckless and more entrepreneurial.
Should Ferguson and Gaethje combine to author the instant classic they have threatened to, knowing full well UFC is the only game in town this weekend for televised sports, a victory may end up being bigger than a full title shot. And if you're wondering whether the short-notice nature of this fight or the constant drama of whether UFC would legally be able to pull it off might affect Ferguson, he's here to tell you to stop.
"It wasn't short notice. I've been training for f---ing six-to-seven months," Ferguson said. "As soon as we found out we were going to be fighting Khabib, we started training in December. I'm ready for f---ing everything. It doesn't matter who you put in front of me, I'm going to go out there and give my best. Win or lose, I'm going to walk out of there a f---ing winner."