While athletes from across the sporting world are no strangers to playing through the pain, things are a bit different for UFC fighters. Being tackled while wearing a helmet and pads isn’t fun, but taking a punch straight to the head is an entirely different matter. Tony Ferguson experienced that reality firsthand during his recent defeat at UFC 249.
Despite taking a beating at the hands of Justin Gaethje, the night wasn’t completely lost for Ferguson. He might have missed out on his chance to claim the interim Lightweight Championship, but he still took home more than $500,000 for his trouble.
(Note: This post contains images that some readers might find unsettling)
Tony Ferguson’s impressive UFC career
Even after his loss to Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson is still one of the UFC’s top fighters. His career, however, didn’t start at the top of the mountain.
After wrestling in college, it looked like Ferguson’s fighting career was done. He moved from Michigan to California and started looking for jobs as a bartender; one day, however, a man handed him card advertising a local gym. Ferguson showed up, and the rest is history.
El Cucuy started fighting and, in 2010, landed a spot on season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter; he would go on to win the season, knocking out Ramsey Nijem in the finale. That victory earned Ferguson a UFC contract and started his path toward stardom.
In May 2012, however, Ferguson hit a speed bump, losing by unanimous decision to Michael Johnson. While the defeat stung, it seemed to light a fire under the lightweight; once he returned to the ring, he climbed up the rankings thanks to a 12-fight unbeaten run.
Suffering a tough defeat at UFC 249
On paper, UFC 249 was supposed to be the moment when Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov finally faced off. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, Justin Gaethje replaced the Russian.
Despite coming into the bout as the betting favorite, Ferguson’s winning streak would come to an end in Florida. Midway through the fifth round, Gaethje’s technique finally proved to be too much. With El Cucuy beaten and bloodied, Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight.
In addition to losing out on the belt and a chance to fight Khabib—assuming that cursed bout would ever actually take place—Ferguson also left the octagon with some brutal injuries. Beyond being bruised and bloodied, with a gash under his right eye, he also suffered an orbital fracture. It wasn’t an ideal night in the office by any stretch of the imagination.
Tony Ferguson still took home a nice payday, in addition to his injuries
It’s safe to say that Tony Ferguson didn’t head into UFC 249 expecting to lose his fight, let alone be heading home with broken bones in his face. Despite that painful reality, the lightweight still went home with a nice payday.
As reported by MMAJunkie, El Cucuy earned $500,000 on Saturday night; that was the highest payout for any fighter taking part in the event. There’s still money to be accounted for—pay-per-view cuts, compliance payouts, and bonuses aren’t included in a fighter’s base pay—meaning Ferguson’s final payday will be a bit more than half a million dollars.
That $500,000 check, taken in combination with Ferguson’s reported net worth of $2 million, makes his defeat a bit easier to swallow. Money might not buy happiness or heal broken bones, but it’s still a pretty nice consolation prize.