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Beneil Dariush does not write off Tony Ferguson, despite a couple of tough defeats for the former interim UFC lightweight champion.
Beneil Dariush (20-4-1 MMA, 14-4-1 UFC) and Ferguson (25-5 MMA, 15-3 UFC) are set to face off in a key lightweight bout on May 15 at UFC 262. The event will take place at Toyota. Center in Houston with basic pay-per-view card following preliminary announcements expected on ESPN and ESPN +.
It’s a huge fight for both 155-pound opponents. Dariush is on a six-win streak and is hoping his name will figure even more in the talk of winning chances, while Ferguson tries to show that he is still a contender after a couple of one-sided defeats to Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje.
Ferguson’s recent defeats have raised questions about whether he will be able to drop in his career at 37 after his record streak of 13 division wins lasted so many years. UFC 262 will serve as another barometer of where El Cucuy is at, but in terms of his preparation and mindset, Beneil Dariush said he must live up to his expectations.
“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 Ferguson’s stance in his career, Beneil Dariush admits he was a little surprised that the match was a success. After defeating Diego Ferreira at UFC Fight Night 184 in February, Dariush asked for a loud 155-pound fight.
He was glad that his wish was fulfilled and praised Ferguson for taking up 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 Beneil Dariush, timing for the fight with Ferguson is the best possible time. Khabib Nurmagomedov recently relinquished his UFC lightweight title and the new champion will take Oliveira’s title against Chandler for the vacant belt at UFC 262.
Dariush said he had no illusions about the situation. Even if he beats Ferguson spectacularly, the winner of the match Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor 3 and even Gaethje will probably be ahead of him in line to fight for the belt.
It doesn’t hurt at all for Dariush to fight the very night the belt issue is resolved, and no matter how the situation unfolds, he just wants to be in a good position to take advantage of 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.”