A reputation of a fighter rises and falls after each UFC event like an ocean’s tide. Put on a memorable performance, and bigger and better opportunities are on the horizon. Drop the ball, and back to the end of the bench you go. So who grew their reputation most at UFC 216? Tony Ferguson.
The UFC returned to Las Vegas Saturday night with their 216th pay-per-view. The card was headlined by an interim title fight in the 155 lb division between Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee. In the co-main event, Demetrious Johnson defended his title for the record breaking eleventh time against Ray Borg. Each fight card, we pick one fighter that seized their opportunity to significantly raise their stock and make a statement to their division. After digesting the fights and post-fight press conference, which fighter’s “rep grew bigger”?
There are a few choices you could go with here: Demetrious Johnson transcended Anderson Silva as the “G.O.A.T.” and Kevin Lee showed he is worthy of being in the cage with the elite of the lightweight division. Walt Harris filled in for Derrick Lewis against Fabricio Werdum on four hours notice and undoubtedly had the biggest career boosting opportunity on the card, but was dispatched by Werdum early in the first round. With all that said, I have to go with Tony Ferguson. Ferguson’s victory over Lee will have a significant impact on the trajectory of his career. Ferguson had a rough first round but went on to submit Lee in Round 3 via triangle, winning the interim lightweight championship.
Ferguson has been grinding in the 155 division since 2011, when he won The Ultimate Fighter 13. Tony’s only loss in the UFC was to Michael Johnson in 2012, and has since gone a perfect 10-0. With such an impressive résumé and entertaining fight style, it’s surprising that Ferguson isn’t far more popular with the average fan. That’s exactly why I think Feguson’s stock has and will go up the most. By winning the interim lightweight belt, Ferguson has punched the golden ticket to get a fight with Conor McGregor. McGregor is the biggest star on the UFC roster and a fight with the Irishman puts you in the sport’s spotlight. If Tony gets the unification bout against McGregor, he will have an opportunity to reach star status and showcase his talent in an attempt to become the undisputed UFC lightweight champion of the world. Let’s all hope the UFC does the right thing and we see McGregor and Ferguson in the cage in the near future.
Do the fans agree?