It’s safe to say that Dana White and the UFC’s gamble to still hold the UFC 249 pay-per-view event despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was a successful one. Every fight on this card, as well as many of the “prelims,” both held up to their public expectation and thoroughly surpassed them.
The main event fight between then-Interim Lightweight Champion, Tony Ferguson, and ranked challenger, Justin Gaethje, was billed as a classic fight in the weeks leading up to the PPV and clearly served as the highlight of the night looking back on it.
This five-round contest, while not entirely the most competitive in terms of evenly exchanging blows, showed a lot of character and a real will to win between these two great fighters. This was especially demonstrated through the determination to see out the fight regardless of injury by Tony Ferguson.
From round one to round five, Justin Gaethje came out “guns blazing” with powerful punches and jabs with the intention of knocking Ferguson out. The truth is after one or two of these shots to the face, you or I would likely be out cold and wake up in an ambulance not to mention so would most fighters in the UFC, but not Tony Ferguson.
Throughout the fight, rather than changing his stance or adjusting his guard, Ferguson “swallowed” these punches and continued on with his fight strategy as if nothing happened. After countless punches to the face, his face became noticeably bloodied and battered up, but this meant nothing to Tony.
He kept going on trying to take Gaethje down when he could and threw counter shots to the face and body to the best of his ability. This warrior-like effort was noted by many watching at home and was best described through a tweet by UFC President Dana White:
It wasn’t until late in the fifth and final round that a devastating left hand to the face would daze Ferguson enough to which the referee deemed it appropriate to call off the fight. Sure, he lost by technical knockout, but he never actually got KO’d. Despite the pain and his body seemingly giving up on him, Tony Ferguson never once touched the canvas nor let himself give up on his aggressive fighting style.
While Gaethje displayed a dominant performance and was clearly worthy of winning the fight, Ferguson truly showcased what many describe as having the “heart of the champion.” In typical Tony Ferguson fashion, when asked about the loss in a post-fight interview, his response was simply, “S*** happen, man.”
Tony Ferguson is clearly one of a kind and one of the greatest fighters in the history of mixed martial arts. This fight, despite the loss, put his spirit and will to win on display.