Gaethje is coming off a loss to the uncrowned champion Charles Oliveira in May at UFC 274. Oliveira came out charging from the get-go and wobbled Gaethje early in the fight before securing a win by submission in the opening round. It marked the second unsuccessful attempt for Gaethje to capture gold after previously challenging the former lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in Oct. 2020.
After a tough start under the banner, Gaethje racked up an impressive three-fight win streak that saw him add Donald Cerrone, Edson Barboza, and James Vick to his highlight reel with a first-round finish by KO or TKO.
He got the chance to compete against Ferguson for the interim UFC lightweight belt at UFC 249 in May 2020. Ferguson went into the bout on an incredible 12-fight win streak but had his run snapped by Gaethje, who secured a late finish in the fifth round. Although Ferguson got hurt many times throughout the fight, he refused to back down and continued to take more damage from his opponent’s shots. Ultimately, referee Herb Dean was forced to stop the contest due to a wobbly Ferguson.
‘El Cucuy’ has not looked the same since and could not manage to win in his next four bouts after the loss, dropping all five of his most recent outings.
Gaethje Breaks Down Tony Ferguson’s Decline
In an interview with Makoa Goble of Low Kick MMA, Gaethje shared his thoughts on Ferguson’s decline after their clash, arguing that he was not the one responsible for it.
“I’m not responsible for that. I mean the shots he took that night, the amount of shots he took, I don’t think it changed him, I don’t know. Hopefully, it doesn’t change you because then I’ve been changed,” Gaethje said. “I don’t want to think about that.
“I think it’s more of, I didn’t take confidence from him but did our experience together make him lose confidence in his abilities? But ultimately we’re talking about fractions of inches, less than seconds. He might be slower. He dropped Michael Chandler in the first round, and Chandler is just as old as him.”
Gaethje Theorized Ferguson Might Be Unlucky
The human ‘highlight’ reel recounted his latest experience inside the cage opposite Oliveira, where he faced new adversity, to reason that not much could be derived from one fight to the next. According to Gaethje, Ferguson could simply have suffered a tragic fate.
“Every fight is different. I got rocked 10 seconds into my last fight, it’s never happened before. I got rocked like five times, never happened before,” he added. “These are just things that happen and each fight is different. He’s had some bad luck. I don’t put a lot in luck and chance but those are factors when we step in there. Maybe he’s just been unlucky.”
Gaethje underwent surgery to get his nose fixed and was expected to stay on the sidelines for the rest of the year. While he does not have a return date yet, he seems ready to get back to fighting again.