After the initial adrenaline and utter delight of UFC 249 subsided, the first thing I felt about the fight between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje was a kind of sadness. Here was Ferguson, possibly the most talented lightweight in history, on an unprecedented 12-fight winning streak and suddenly on the receiving end of a brutal and flawless Gaethje beatdown. More than any injury or any of the seemingly countless bout cancellations with Khabib Nurmagomedov, this loss obliterated the hopes of a super showdown between “El Cucuy” and the reigning champion. Even if they do eventually fight, it will never carry the same gravity as it did when they were both on record-setting runs through the sport’s toughest division.
In hindsight, perhaps Ferguson should never have taken the fight with Gaethje and instead waited for Nurmagomedov. Two things, though: (1) That doesn’t seem to be who Ferguson is as a man or as a fighter, and (2) hindsight is only ever useful when a risk doesn’t pay off. Had he won, he’d be lauded for his gutsy willingness to fight whoever, whenever, even in the middle of a pandemic. That’s how the gambit works: Win and get extra glory, or lose and bear the extra weight of regret…Like