UFC pay war escalates as star calls out Dana White

Former interim UFC lightweight champion Tony Ferguson was in no laughing mood for his media availability ahead of his bout with Michael Chandler at UFC 274 on Sunday (AEST).

Ferguson is set to return to the Octagon in his first fight since last May and hasn’t engaged with the media in about a year. It was clear he had a lot on his mind regarding his treatment at the hands of the UFC and of the swift elevation of his opponent Chandler.

Ferguson has been with the UFC since 2011, and despite an awesome 12-fight winning streak, a freak accident ahead of his fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 stopped him from fighting for the vacant title belt.

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Nurmagomedov ended up winning the vacant belt against Al Iaquinta, and while several other fights were scheduled between Khabib and Ferguson, the two never met in the octagon.

He’s only gone on to fight for the interim title since, going down to Justin Gaethje via TKO at UFC 249.

He’s become the forgotten man of the lightweight division after a three-fight losing streak, while Chandler was given a title shot in the octagon after just his second fight in the UFC, with Ferguson saying the former Bellator fighter had “Dana White privilege”.

That tone continued during his press conference, with the former interim lightweight champion taking aim at the UFC boss for not allowing “underpaid” fighters to earn money through other revenue streams on their own.

The atmosphere became tense when a reporter tried to jokingly bring up Ferguson’s crack at Chandler, but the 25-6 fighter was having none of it.

“I don’t think it’s very funny,” Ferguson said. “Everybody is looking at it. They’re smiling and laughing, but nobody is saying shit. I’m the kid that’s up here with Dana Brown privilege, I guess, or whatever you want to call it.

“I don’t think it’s very funny anymore. I don’t think you guys should think that’s very funny. I’m taking this weekend very f—ing seriously. I’ll kick this Dana White boy’s ass.”

Ferguson continued to unpack some emotional baggage in a lengthy rant aimed at White, when asked about his one-year lay off from the UFC.

“Oh you guys are listening now, that’s interesting,” Ferguson said. “That’s cool. This is why I haven’t done any interviews. This is why I just kept my mouth shut for a long time. A lot of fighters have been keeping their mouths shut for a long time.

“You should ask some of the other fighters that have been f—ing treated like s–t for a long time too,” Ferguson continued. “I’m not the only one thinking it or f—ing saying it or seeing it. So maybe you should ask them too.

“I think we’re underpaid personally,” he added. “I’m gonna be real. I’m not gonna say it too much. Dana said something the other day talking about how boxers are overpaid. I asked Dana to box, he said ‘f–k no.’ I’m like ‘Why?’ I want to go play baseball — I wanna go do other pro sports, I’m an athlete. I grew up playing different sports at a very high level. I won a state championship football ring right here, we were 27-1.

“I come from Grand Valley State University as a wrestler. I wanna go do pro wrestling, I got Uncle Brock that’s right there watching me. I wanna go do all these things but then I have this guy right here acting like a f– -ing drug dealer telling me I can’t go and do this shit. I wanna go make more money for my family.”

Ferguson said he felt wronged by the UFC after the freak accident ahead of the Khabib fight, and even considered suing the Las Vegas-based promotion. Ferguson’s injury occurred while undertaking pre-fight media obligations for the UFC. When asked if he has a chip on his shoulder, he replied: “I’m waiting for insurance.

“I’ve been competing in this sport for a long time. I took a bad fall at FOX. They took my title from me. I don’t even have to go into the Miller-Ayala Act, where an agent is not supposed to be competing in the same sport as you. But you guys know what I’m talking about, right?

“Then I’m gonna get stripped of my title, because I f—ing took a bad fall on accident? I should’ve sued. But what I did was, I felt, good for my company. I wanted to be the man, I wanted to make sure that everybody knew that I f—ing could do this stuff without anybody else’s help.

“So that’s a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, you know what I mean?”

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