HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – Beneil Dariush isn’t writing off Tony Ferguson, despite a pair of tough losses for the former UFC interim lightweight champion.
Dariush (20-4-1 MMA, 14-4-1 UFC) and Ferguson (25-5 MMA, 15-3 UFC) are set to meet in a key lightweight clash May 15 at UFC 262. The event takes place at Toyota Center in Houston with a main card on pay-per-view following prelims expected on ESPN and ESPN+.
It’s a huge matchup for both 155-pound contenders. Dariush is on a six-fight winning streak and is looking to further elevate his name into the conversation for a championship opportunity, while Ferguson will attempt to show he’s still a contender following a pair of one-sided losses to Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje.
Ferguson’s recent defeats raised questions about whether, at 37, he’s hitting a downslide in his career after his divisional record 13-fight winning streak lasted so many years. UFC 262 will serve as another barometer of where “El Cucuy” stands, but in terms of his preparation and mentality toward the fight, Dariush said he must keep his own expectations high.
“I try to look at the best Tony I’ve ever seen,” Dariush said. “The Tony who fought Rafael (dos Anjos), he looked really good. The Tony who fought Kevin Lee looked very good. You had the Donald Cerrone fight. I try to watch those fights and look at the best Tony. I don’t try to look at the fights he lost too much, because you don’t get the best version, and I’m trying to look at the best version, because I think he’s going to come out with his best version, because it’s a do-or-die kind of situation for him.”
Given the position Ferguson is at in his career, Dariush admits he was a little bit surprised that the matchup came to fruition. Following his win over Diego Ferreira at UFC Fight Night 184 in February, Dariush asked for a big-name fight at 155 pounds.
He was pleased his wish was granted and praised Ferguson for taking the challenge.
“Yes (I was surprised he took the fight), but then I remembered: Tony is Tony,” Dariush said. “Tony is the type of guy. Tony is the man. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. A lot of people didn’t say yes, so a lot of respect for him.
“I called for Charles (Oliveira), (Michael) Chandler or Ferguson. Charles because we were matched up (before). I had signed the contract, and I said Chandler because he’s new, but he’s getting all this hype, and I’m not really sure why. So I said I’ll go with Chandler. Or Ferguson. I said Ferguson could fight whoever he wants. Look at his record. To me, this man is a champion. He can fight whoever he wants, but I would be grateful if he picked me. He ended up doing it, so I’m super stoked about it.”
For Dariush, the timing of the fight with Ferguson couldn’t be better. Khabib Nurmagomedov recently relinquished the UFC lightweight title, and a new champion will be crowned with Oliveira vs. Chandler for the vacant belt at UFC 262.
Dariush said he’s got no delusions about the situation. Even if he beats Ferguson in spectacular fashion, the winner of Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor 3, and even Gaethje, are likely in front of him in the queue to challenge for the belt.
It doesn’t hurt Dariush at all to be fighting on the same night as the belt will be decided, though, and however the landscape unfolds, he just wants to be in a good position to pounce on the next opportunity.
“I’m right there,” Dariush said. “That’s one of the things I do like. They’re fighting for the title and then they’re like, ‘Oh, well. Dariush and Ferguson just fought.’ I like that part of it. But my division isn’t like every other division. It’s the most popular, I feel like, at the moment, and it’s one of the most stacked, if not the most stacked.
“Rankings don’t always mean what they should. Sometimes the numbers – the butts you can put in seats mean more. I think it’s going to be one of those factors. If they can get Dustin, Conor or Justin to show up for the title, those guys will get a shot before me. But if not, I’ll be fighting.”
To see the full interview with Dariush, check out the video below.