“El Cucuy” has had a nightmare 2020, starting with the cancelation of a proposed fight with Nurmagomedov for a fifth time in April and ending with a defeat to Brazilian Charles Oliveira as he sought to re-establish himself as a challenger at UFC 256.
Ferguson had hoped to become the first fighter to beat Russian legend Nurmagomedov before coronavirus chaos struck, losing an interim title scrap with Justin Gaethje in a defeat that hospitalized the badly beaten 36-year-old the following month.
Now fans have spotted how prophetic Nurmagomedov’s words of warning were when he was asked to assess Ferguson ahead of his own return, insisting that the American had taken too much punishment and had his best days well behind him.
“Nobody can be the same for a long time,” lightweight king Nurmagomedov told ESPN, speaking shortly before his comfortable victory over Gaethje in October further demonstrated how far Ferguson was from the reckoning at the top of the division.
“One day, somebody is going to beat you, something is going to happen. One day you’re going to go down and his day came. It was in May.
“Tony Ferguson’s time is finished. Now he’s going to come back and someone is going to beat him again, I believe.
“When you take damage like this, you’re never going to be the same – never ever, even if you’re Tony Ferguson. He’s taken too much damage.”
Ferguson’s defeat saddened fans who admire his bravery, which was again on show as he endured a harrowing armbar from Oliveira in the first round in Las Vegas.
Refusing to tap when many fighters would have surrendered, he was saved by the bell as the round ended with his arm looking beyond breaking point.
“Wow,” marveled welterweight Gilbert Burns on Twitter, praising his countryman’s dominant performance after predicting that Oliveira would win earlier in the week. “How come he didn’t tap? Crazy.”
An account that reposted Nurmagomedov’s analysis declared: “‘The Eagle’ said it. He knows everything about this game.”
While others considered the footage as more evidence of the Dagestani’s status as one of the greatest combatants of all time, one said of Ferguson: “The Gaethje war and its aftermath is something we see time and again in combat sports, where the fighters are never the same.
“They’re gun-shy, they don’t take shots like they used to and the losses begin to add up.”
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