Tony Ferguson
Tony Ferguson Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Most of us humans were born with two innate danger alerts - fear and pain - but Tony Ferguson, the UFC’s No. 1 ranked lightweight contender in the world, dismissed the notion that MMA fighters can be subject to them.

Speaking to Gulf News via a virtual media conference call from Jacksonville, Florida, on Thursday night, the Mexican-American said that he was born without fear and was not someone who ran away from the storm.

When asked to add some perspective to the intensity of fighting in the Octagon, Ferguson, who will be up against fellow American Justin Gaethje for the interim belt at UFC 249 fight night on Saturday, said: “If you’re a tough athlete you go out there and give it your best against your opponent. Did you run away or did you go back to the storm?

“All my life I never ran away I was never a defensive fight I was always cracking heads and doing everything I can to win.”

Commenting on the low-key atmosphere in Jacksonville, where movement is restricted among fighters and crew due to social distancing in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Ferguson said: “Basically were very lucky to be able to fight this week. It’s important to have sports back and I’m fortunate and honoured to be part of this event.

“It’s not bad. Kind of quiet. We’re focused. We’re here for UFC 249.”

Ferguson, who is riding a 12-fight winning streak, looked composed and happy to be talking to the media, even if through a one-way camera.

He arrived wearing a black Mortal Kombat mask, but as he settled down and began facing questions from media around the world, he took it off revealing an angular of face and macho Latin disposition.

“I have nothing against the kid. He’s awesome,” the fighter known as “El Cucuy” said about Gaethje, who is a short-notice replacement for Ferguson’s intended opponent, Khabin Nurmagomedov.

“He’s got ‘the Human Highlight’ for his nickname for a reason. He’s a tough, game opponent. But the guy’s that he fought, he got my leftovers. He went over there and finished them, but they were already broken.

“Any time I’ve ever fought an opponent, they just break mentally, physically and spiritually. They just can’t handle it inside that Octagon. Gaethje’s not going to be anything different from these guys. I’m not going to hold back.”

Ferguson revealed that he had prepared no differently for Saturday’s fight but had just focused on his conditioning and diet.

However, he did admit that he had studied videos of Gaethje’s fights and had spotted some ‘holes in his game.’

“I’m a veteran in this sport,” he said. “I’ve got 12 wins in a row, only because I lost to Michael Johnson. I’m not planning on losing any time soon.

“My work ethic speaks for itself. I’m an Ultimate Fighter winner. I always said that ‘In order to be the best, you’ve got to beat everybody’,

“It’s a round-robin style tournament. Justin Gaethje’s next.”

Ferguson vs Gaethje is the main event of UFE 249, a blockbuster 12-fight event that will take place behind closed door at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday night (UAE 6am).