HOUSTON — Tony Ferguson will have a mix of old and new in his corner this weekend.
The popular UFC lightweight contender has added legendary boxing trainer Freddie Roach as one of his coaches, and Roach will be in his corner for his fight against Beneil Dariush at UFC 262 on Saturday at Toyota Center, Ferguson told ESPN on Thursday.
Ferguson let go of all of his cornermen following a loss to Charles Oliveira at UFC 256 last December. Oliveira is now fighting for the vacant lightweight title Saturday against Michael Chandler. In order to get back into the title picture, Ferguson said he knew he had to make some changes. Ferguson has been training at Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles for his current camp and also had former boxing Olympian Pepe Reilly with him this week.
“Whenever I go to Wild Card, I always look at this whiteboard and it says ‘Just Show Up — It Ain’t Easy,’” Ferguson told ESPN. “Nobody is going to have the amount of courage, the gumption, the conditioning as the person that’s going out there and doing it. But there’s no excuses. If you’re going out there and you’re doing it, you’re going to find the time, you’re going to put yourself out there and you’re going to have the humility to be able to be coachable. I’m very coachable. I’ve always made that approach.
“This time, it’s not about the punching or just about the kicking or the jiu-jitsu. It’s about mixing it up, man. Better than a blender.”
In addition to Roach, Ferguson will have his old college wrestling coach Dave Mills in his corner, as well as longtime 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu training partner and UFC veteran Ben Saunders by his side. Ferguson won a National Collegiate Wrestling Association national title under Mills at Grand Valley State in 2006.
Those aren’t the only influences Ferguson has had this camp, either. He has been in contact with his former team, Team Death Clutch, which was once led by former UFC heavyweight champion and WWE legend Brock Lesnar. Ferguson said he has been in touch with Lesnar and coaches Marty Morgan, Greg Nelson and Erik Paulson throughout this camp, as well as his longtime striking coach Tony Gonzalez.
“They had to remind me that I’m a fighter,” Ferguson said. “This is mixed martial arts. It’s not a pissing contest. You’re not trying to go out there and trying to box this dude. You’re not trying to impress anybody. You’re going out there for that f—ing victory, and this is exactly what we needed to do. And they helped me surround that.”
Ferguson won 12 straight fights between 2013 and 2019 but has dropped two straight. He fell to Justin Gaethje in an interim title bout at UFC 249 last May, and then Oliveira beat him five months ago.
After that bout, Ferguson purged his entire camp.
“When you’re the smartest man in the room, you have to basically fire everybody,” Ferguson told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. “What basically happened was nobody was testing me. Nobody was helping me grow. So I basically had to get rid of everybody that was toxic to me.”
Ferguson (25-5) is one of the best lightweight fighters in the history of MMA but has never fought for an undisputed UFC title. He has had several bouts of bad luck, including losing his opportunity at a title shot when he tore his knee tripping on a wire during a media tour.
He is hoping his revamped coaching staff will lead to another run at the belt at age 37.
“You put in the numbers, you have a good vibe, you keep the team going,” Ferguson said. “No mistakes, man. No negativity. If there’s negativity there, you’re eighty-sixing them.”