The MMA world’s excitement over a potential battle between former UFC interim lightweight champions Tony Ferguson and Dustin Poirier was dampened Saturday when UFC president Dana White said the promotion was moving on from the idea after failing to come to terms with Poirier over the matchup.
Despite Ferguson’s social media plea for the UFC to “pay the man,” it seems the matchup may be a non-starter, which begs the question: Whom should “El Cucuy” face next?
That’s the matchmaking dilemma we pitched to Farah Hannoun, Simon Head and Danny Segura, who offered their suggestions for Ferguson’s next opponent in the latest edition of Triple Take.
Farah Hannoun: Dan Hooker
If Dustin Poirier isn’t available, then top lightweight contender Dan Hooker would make for an incredible fight.
Hooker may have just lost a unanimous decision to Poirier in June, but prior to that, he had won seven of his past eight. Hooker started out strong against Poirier, but “The Diamond’s” experience and grit allowed him to take over the latter rounds.
Hooker is a very dangerous opponent with incredible skill and a matchup with Ferguson would be a guaranteed war. If successful, it would also be a legitimate win for Ferguson over an opponent who’s ranked in the top five.
It’s matchup that would get anyone excited, and while Hooker would have more to gain, it’s a very viable option for Ferguson and his quest to regain the No. 1 contender spot.
Simon Head: Conor McGregor
Yes, yes, I know he’s “retired.” And yes, I know he has some business to attend to with the authorities in France. But assuming Conor McGregor is clear of trouble following the recent headlines in Corsica, I’d love to see him get back into the swing of things. And who better to face on his return than Ferguson?
They both used to share a management team, but while Ferguson has moved on to pastures new, the pair still have something significant in common – they both want to face Khabib Nurmagomedov. Ferguson’s pursuit of Khabib has been littered with illness, injury and the arrival of a global pandemic preventing him from getting the fight his career richly deserved. McGregor, meanwhile, has made no secret of his desire to avenge his UFC 229 loss to “The Eagle.”
It’s a bit of a stretch but, given McGregor’s recent travails, perhaps the best thing for him is to get back into fight camp mode and get back to the place where he thrives: inside the cage. Ferguson, meanwhile, wants a big-time opponent to get him right back in the mix at the top of the 155-pound division.
The lack of a paying crowd makes it unlikely until later this year, at the earliest, but if a deal could somehow be struck for the fight to take place, it might just be the perfect matchup for both men. It’s a long shot, but it’s gotta be worth a try.
Danny Segura: Michael Chandler
We already know Michael Candler is one of the top lightweights in the world, but we’re not exactly sure how good he is among the UFC’s elite.
If the former Bellator lightweight champion and now free agent ends up signing with the UFC, why not get him a welcome with one of the staples of the UFC’s 155-pound division?
This matchup would give us a good perspective of where Chandler belongs, since Ferguson is one of the most battle-tested and proven veterans in the division. Both fighters have fun exciting styles, but also are very distinct. Chandler is a stocky power puncher with great wrestling, while Ferguson is a a rangy volume striker with serious jiu-jitsu skills. The bout has “Fight of the Night” written all over it, and even potentially “Fight of the Year.”
The two warriors are in their mid-30s and a slow build to the title is not the way to go here. Ferguson and Chandler need big fights that can set them up for title shots or title eliminator bouts. A bout between the two would do just that. And like Ferguson says, “Champ (explicit) only.”