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The UFC surprised everyone when, just weeks out from next month’s event, it booked a key lightweight matchup between Cerrone (36-11 MMA, 23-8 UFC) and Ferguson (24-3 MMA, 14-1 UFC) to take place at United Center in Chicago. Cerrone was vacationing in Mexico when he got the call, and while he jumped on board right away, he said that wasn’t the case with the other side, which caused him some frustration.
“There wasn’t really any convincing that had to go on (for me),” Cerrone told MMA Junkie. “More or less the UFC called me and asked me if I wanted to fight and I said yes, then it took two or three days for Tony to agree to the fight, which really pissed me off because the UFC called me and offered to me and left me in his limbo.
“I keep calling like, ‘Dana (White), I’m on (expletive) vacation. Can I drink beer and eat guacamole, or do you want me to go (expletive) run on the beach? Because this in-between, I don’t know what’s going on, is (expletive) bull(expletive).’ So Tony took long figuring it out.”
Cerrone’s theory on why it took days for Ferguson to put pen to paper is because of what’s at risk for “El Cucuy.” The former UFC interim lightweight champ is currently riding an 11-fight winning streak, and few would argue if he got a title shot.
Although Cerrone doesn’t have quite the same streak as Ferguson, he is the winningest fighter in UFC history and holds a plethora of other records, as well. He just defeated Al Iaquinta earlier this month at UFC on ESPN+ 9 and afterward said he was considering sitting out until a title opportunity came around.
Cerrone, 36, loves to fight, though, and he’s happy to put his momentum toward the belt on the line in a matchup with Ferguson, 35.
“I don’t think he wanted to have to fight again other than a title fight,” Cerrone said. “I think he believes he deserves a shot, so for him fighting someone like me is super dangerous. Why would he want to put himself at risk of (losing) a title shot? Especially fighting a (expletive) killer. But I don’t give a (expletive). That’s the difference between me. I’ll fight anybody. So I’ve got to beat them all anyway.”
Cerrone, No. 4 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie lightweight rankings, did admit he was somewhat surprised the matchup with No. 2 Ferguson came together on such a short timeline. Ferguson has been dealing with some well documented personal issues outside of fighting that have put his career on hold, but he was cleared and had a positive meeting with UFC brass just days before the fight was announced.
“It surprised me that Tony wanted to fight so short notice,” Cerrone said. “I don’t know if he needs money to pay medical bills or what the (expletive). I don’t care either. It doesn’t matter to me.”
Despite UFC having a loaded schedule of upcoming events, it opted to put Cerrone vs. Ferguson on the June 8 lineup for UFC 238. Cerrone believes it’s because “they needed Chicago’s card saved so they can sell the pay-per-view,” despite two title matchups already slated.
In addition to wanting Ferguson’s commitment earlier, Cerrone said he wishes the fight was scheduled for five rounds instead of three. He’s ready for the 15-minute window, though, and is hoping to avoid one of his notoriously slow starts.
Cerrone’s spirit is also buoyed by that fact that, unlike many of his previous opponents, he is familiar with Ferguson’s work. Cerrone has said countless times he doesn’t watch tape, but he’s seen Ferguson fight before and acknowledges potential weaknesses.
“I watched him fight Lando (Vannata) my buddy,” Cerrone said. “I know what kind of opponent I’m against. He’s tough as (expletive), he’s very unorthodox, but not a very high-level striker, I don’t think. He’s just high volume. We’ll be all right.”
Cerrone vs. Ferguson has not yet been officially ruled a No. 1 contender bout but given the divisional landscape, the winner is likely to challenge whomever comes out of the Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier title unifier expected for UFC 242 in September.
Cerrone said everyone knows what’s at stake and expects nothing less than a title shot with a win over Ferguson.
“I don’t even think UFC needs to say that, because this would be it. There would be nobody else,” Cerrone said. “I beat Tony; I get the title (shot). There’s no one else in line.”
News | MMA Junkie