Like other UFC veterans before him, Tony Ferguson came to Albuquerque and Jackson-Wink MMA hoping to recapture the form that made him one of the sport’s best.
Ferguson, among the best UFC fighters never to have won a title in that organization — he did once hold an interim UFC title belt — was in Albuquerque last week.
The stay was brief, but Ferguson has said he’s looking for a new team. It’s possible he’ll be back.
In late 2017, Ferguson was at or near the top of the MMA world. He’d just defeated Kevin Lee for the UFC interim lightweight title after Conor McGregor was stripped of the title due to inactivity. Ferguson was 22-3 at the time.
Ferguson then, however, suffered a knee injury that canceled a title fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov, who instead met and defeated Al Iaquinta for the lightweight belt.
Ferguson recovered and won three fights in a row, including a victory over Edgewood’s Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone by TKO (doctor’s stoppage, eye injury).
He hasn’t won since. He’s now 25-7, having lost in succession to Justin Gaethje, Charles Oliveira, Beneil Dariush and Michael Chandler.
In coming to Jackson-Wink, hoping to learn some new tricks and tactics, the California native follows former UFC champions Johny Hendricks and BJ Penn.
Penn’s and Hendricks’ stays were far longer. Penn trained at J-W for some six months in 2017; Hendricks arrived later that year and spent several months here.
Neither visit could be termed successful. Hendricks and Penn each lost his next fight after coming to J-W. Hendricks then retired. Penn fought twice more, losing both times.
In fairness, it’s clear Penn and Hendricks were far past their primes when they came to Jackson-Wink. That may or may not be true of Ferguson, 38, considering the quality of opposition he faced in his past four losses.
Jackson-Wink was not the only stop Ferguson made in his search for better results in the future. The previous week, he worked at renowned trainer Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles.
Ferguson does not have a fight scheduled.
ANOTHER LOSS: Penn, who ran for governor in his native Hawaii as a Republican, lost decisively in Monday’s primary. He finished with some 24% of the vote, more than 27 points behind winner Duke Aiona.
Yet, according to the MMA website bloodyelbow.com, Penn’s campaign stated, “It’s not over. We are not conceding.”
Penn has alleged voter suppression took place on Maui and on Hawaii’s Big Island, Bloody Elbow reported.
Sorry, BJ. It appears the final buzzer has sounded.
PICO IN, VANNATA OUT: Jackson-Wink featherweight Aaron Pico (10-3) is booked for an Oct. 1 fight against Canada’s Jeremy Kennedy (17-3) on a Bellator card in Long Beach, California.
Meanwhile, Jackson’s Acoma featherweight Lando Vannata (12-6-2) is out due to injury of a scheduled Sept. 17 fight against Andre Fili on a UFC card in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“Year round we play with skin in the game,” Vannata wrote on Instagram. “Sooner later we pay.
“Injury has taken me out of this one, but I will see you guys in the arena again soon.”
Pico was to have fought Kennedy in April, but an injury to the Canadian fighter — who trains in Las Vegas — caused a postponement. Instead, Pico beat replacement fighter Adli Edwards by third-round TKO.
Kennedy looms as the toughest test Pico has faced since he launched his current six-fight win streak in January 2020. Even though Pico (fourth) stands above Kennedy (sixth) in the Bellator featherweight rankings, a victory could inch Pico closer to a title shot.
Long Beach is essentially home turf for Pico, who grew up in Southern California. He, his girlfriend, Kylie, and their year-old son, Valentino, live full time in Albuquerque.