LAS VEGAS — At the end of June, Tony Ferguson was in the Fox Sports 1 studio doing pre-and post-fight analysis for UFC Fight Night 112. The main event on the show featured Kevin Lee notching a first-round submission win over Michael Chiesa. When the card commenced, Lee did an interview with the FS 1 team. Ferguson was talking to Lee and proceeded to call Lee “an athlete” with “decent hands” but that he needs to “bleed a little” and wasn’t ready to the elite fighters in the lightweight division.
The UFC didn’t agree with Ferguson’s assessment as the organization pitted Ferguson against Lee in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 216 with the interim lightweight championship on the line.
MORE: Everything you need to know about UFC 216
Lee is 16-2 overall, won five consecutive bouts and nine of his last ten. Impressive as that is, Ferguson (23-3) whose riding a nine-fight winning streak still isn’t sold on the Lee being ready to face him inside the octagon.
“I still don’t think he’s ready,” Ferguson told Sporting News. “He says way too much. He says in all these interviews that he’s going to crush me. I’m crushing every single workout. I’m running at night and doing everything necessary to win the fight. Talking doesn’t do anything when fists are flying at you.”
“I was 25 once,” Ferguson stated. “He’s a young punk. I saw him today and he looked like a piece of cotton candy. I was literally walking to the bathroom and he’s talking s—.
The theme of my camp was ‘Smile Tony.’ The last time we smiled, I connected on over 200 punches in Mexico City against Rafael dos Anjos (UFC Fight Night 98).”
When incidents like the bathroom one occur, it is to build up interest in a fight. The fight hadn’t been announced but it proved to be the catalyst for the UFC to book it for the main event of UFC 216.
The winner of the UFC 216 is in line to face champion Conor McGregor, who stated last week he will be watching the fight closely. Many have said McGregor won’t face the winner and choose to make the trilogy fight against Nate Diaz. Ferguson believes when it boils down to it, McGregor will defend the belt against him.
“I think I will,” Ferguson said. “Defend or vacate. The belt belongs in the UFC. It’s not a boxing belt. It’s a UFC belt. It says weight belt on it. He needs to come back, defend the belt. If not, then vacate it. If you want to not fight me and do something else, then go ahead. But, I like to fight and compete.