In early 2020, Ferguson was being lined up to challenge “The Eagle” for the undisputed 155-pound title. “El Cucuy” had earned that position with a lengthy 12-fight win streak that included wins over Edson Barboza, Rafael dos Anjos, Kevin Lee, and Anthony Pettis.
But with travel issues owing to the pandemic forcing Khabib out, marking the fifth time a matchup between the pair had fallen through, Ferguson met Justin Gaethje at UFC 249. The 24-minute beatdown “The Highlight” handed his fellow former interim champ turned out to be the start of a significant downfall.
While some have suggested that the writing has long been on the wall for Ferguson and his career end, 2022 has provided a rough realization for many of his supporters.
At UFC 274 in May, “El Cucuy” was knocked out cold by a Chandler front kick. A quick move to welterweight to face Li Jingliang had many fearing the same fate, but card alterations saw Ferguson matched with fellow veteran Diaz instead.
While he didn’t suffer another KO or significant damage, a submission loss to the Stockton native has further compounded the seemingly consensus view that Ferguson is past his best inside the cage.
And although Khabib also shares that sentiment, he understands why Ferguson isn’t choosing to hang up his gloves.
Khabib: ‘Ferguson Has Bills & A Family’
During a recent sit-down interview with UFC Russia, Khabib was asked about Ferguson’s switch to welterweight and losing streak. In contrast to the veteran’s current skid, the Russian exited the sport at a young age after amassing an unblemished 29-0 record.
After reiterating his belief that a fighter can’t resurrect their form of old when in the position that the former interim titleholder finds himself in, “The Eagle” did note the reasons why he believes Ferguson is continuing to make the walk to the cage — and for those, he doesn’t “blame” the 38-year-old’s persistence.
“His time is up and there’s no way to get it back,” Khabib said. “Not Khabib, not Tony, nobody. We had our time and it passed. He continues to fight. He needs money. You have to pay your bills in the US. And I’m sure that since he’s Californian, I know all the Californian fighters, everything they earn, (taxes) take half of that.
“I think he keeps fighting for money to pay bills and taxes. He has a family. I think he has two kids. I don’t blame him. But you can’t get back time. When your time goes away, it doesn’t ask your name.”
While many have shared the same take as Khabib with regards to Ferguson’s poor run of form, it doesn’t appear that the TUF 13 victor is considering calling an end to his career just yet.
Since his defeat at UFC 279, Ferguson has posted training footage online, suggesting that he’s working towards another attempt at returning to the win column.
What do you make of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s take on Tony Ferguson’s decision to continue fighting?
This story originally appeared on MMANews.com. Please provide transcription credit with a link to this article if you use any of these quotes.