This time last week, Tony Ferguson was the interim UFC lightweight champion and wrapping up the final days of his training camp to face Khabib Nurmagomedov in the UFC 223 main event for the undisputed lightweight title. On Thursday, while fulfilling media obligations to promote Saturday's pay-per-view, the unthinkable happened. Ferguson tripped over a production cable on a FOX set and tore the lateral collateral ligament in his knee.
Tony Ferguson Details Knee Injury
“It was just a matter of, I slipped, man,” Ferguson explained during an appearance on The MMA Hour. “I heard it pop. Once we got back to the car after FOX interviewed us, I turned to the wife to tell her what happened, and she was concerned. I had a couple of my team members and UFC staff with me.
“Afterwards, I went home and did a pool workout and I felt tension and danger in my workout. I woke up on Friday with some pain and I still tried to push through it. You guys know me, I’m tough. I tried to train later that evening after taking a day of rest, but my knee locked up.”
Ferguson was hoping to be able to push through, but the pain intensified. It became obvious to him on Saturday that it wasn't just a minor injury.
“I woke up Saturday with even more pain, but I tried to push through it and train again,” he said. “But it locked up on me, my knee was giving out a few times, and slowly it dawned on me, I knew something was f*cked up and more serious.”
An MRI confirmed that he had torn his LCL.
“When I saw my MRI image, dude, I don’t know about you, but I was like, it looked like a flag with my ligament. It was hanging on the side of the pole. I wanted them to shoot me with some sort of numbing shot or whatever they put, but they said it was likely it would blow up the whole entire knee,” Ferguson said.
Dana White Announces Tony Ferguson's Interim UFC Title ‘Goes Away'
The news broke on Easter Sunday that Ferguson was out of the title fight. UFC president Dana White announced the featherweight champion Max Holloway would step in to face Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title and Ferguson would be stripped of the interim title.
“(The interim title) goes away,” White told ESPN. “This fight is for the title. The winner of this fight will be the champion.”
Ferguson didn't know he was going to be stripped of the interim belt. He won the title at UFC 216 in October by submitting Kevin Lee. When White stated that the interim title would go away, Ferguson was shocked.
“So when I saw what was in the [ESPN] interview, it shocked me, man, it hurt me even more. It was something I couldn’t control with this injury. This all started snowballing this weekend, man. Of all weekends. The UFC hasn’t said anything to me about my title going away, and I don’t think it will go away.
“You shouldn’t strip a champion due to a freak injury that happened during a UFC-obligated media event,” he said.
Ferguson believes stripping him of the title would be unprecedented. In similar situations in the past, the fight promotion didn't strip the interim champion of the title unless he was sidelined for a considerable amount of time.
“I mean seriously, there is a precedent for having a fight for a ‘real' title and keeping an ‘interim' title intact,” Ferguson said. “They just did that with Robert Whittaker last year.”