Kicking lamp posts with his bare shin, blindfolded speed bag sessions, marathon six-hour workouts and a refusal to spar anyone… inside the mad world of UFC star Tony Ferguson’s training
- UFC star Tony Ferguson is notorious for the unique training methods he employs
- The former interim lightweight champion has gone viral online for his workouts
- Ferguson looks to snap a five-fight losing skid against Bobby Green at UFC 291
To reach the pinnacle of any athletic field, a solid training regime is essentially a non-negotiable.
In order to perform to their full potential, professional athletes surround themselves with a team of coaches each possessing their own area of expertise. Utilising methods refined through years of experience, the athlete can be confident on game day that they have done everything to perform to the best of their abilities.
MMA is no different.
Though significantly younger than contemporary combat sports, the training of professional fighters has developed significantly in the three decades since the UFC’s inception as a bloody spectacle in 1993.
Gone are the days where fighters would train each separate aspect of the sport divorced from the others, with a consensus since emerging that blending the various elements of the sport is the most effective way to prepare for action.
Tony Ferguson has become one of the most beloved UFC fighters since his debut in 2011
The American’s all-action style inside the cage is matched by his unconventional training methods
However, not all fighters subscribe to homogenised methods. In fact, the success, and subsequent struggles, of former UFC interim title holder Tony Ferguson serves to both refute and confirm their validity.
At his peak, ‘El Cucuy’ struck fear in the hearts of his opponents by combining endless cardio and strong finishing instincts with his collegiate wrestling background, embarking on a 15-1 run in the UFC between 2011 and 2019.
Though his exploits in the cage earned him plaudits from across the combat sports world, the notoriety surrounding Ferguson was heightened by viral clips of his unconventional training methods.
One of these videos shows Ferguson conditioning his shins by repeatedly slamming kicks into a metal bar. The clip shows the fighter seemingly unfazed as a clang sounds out each time the bone of shin collides with the metal.
The practice of conditioning bones through repeated impacts is not unique to Ferguson. Thai boxers have been known to kick a heavy bag hundreds of times following a session, for example.
But the American’s antics do not stop there.
Another viral clip capturing just one example from a marathon strength and conditioning session saw Ferguson deadlifting significant weight for multiple reps on a hex bar with seemingly no concern for proper form; arching and then straightening his spine to force the weight up from the ground below him.
Ferguson’s formula clearly wasn’t without method, however.
Though a favoured training tool for the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, the speed bag has traditionally been considerably less utilised by most MMA fighters.
But, as he has demonstrated countless times throughout his career, Tony Ferguson never has been most MMA fighters.
The UFC star went viral on social media after demonstrating his questionable deadlift form
Another clip saw Ferguson condition his shins by repeatedly slamming kicks into a metal post
‘El Cucuy’ has also demonstrated his mastery of the speed bag by completing a workout blindfolded
The 39-year-old has demonstrated an almost unique proficiency on the training tool, mixing punches with his trademark elbows while maintaining the bags rhythm and even demonstrating his skills blindfolded.
Jeremy Stephens joined Ferguson’s high-altitude training camps on several occasions and insisted that a method existed within the madness.
‘Training with a guy like Tony Ferguson, who’s one of the top [fighters] in the world, who is more than deserving of a title shot, has so much knowledge and experience of beating guys asses, it was incredible,’ Stephens told Ariel Helwani in 2019.
‘We trained probably six and a half hours straight, and then we’d take a little break. We’d watch ‘Rocky 4,’ and then we went on midnight runs, [or] 1 a.m.’
‘It was an incredible experience, I actually can’t wait to go back and help him train for his upcoming fight, go on them runs, and do that 6 and a half, seven hours, Floyd Mayweather-type training.
It’s champ s***. The guy’s incredible, [but] he’s smart. It’s not just barbaric work. The guy trains with extreme intelligence.’
As with any deviation from established norms, Ferguson’s unique methods were commended thanks to his success in competition.
However, as his results inside the cage began to falter, the lightweight would find himself facing increasing scrutiny for not adhering to conventional standards.
After a seemingly unstoppable run at 155lbs, Ferguson’s momentum would come to an abrupt end beginning with his interim lightweight title fight with Justin Gaethje in 2020, looking like a shell of his former self as he suffered three successive defeats.
The tide looked to have turned at UFC 274 though, as Ferguson showed glimpses of his erratic best against Michael Chandler. After a strong first round, Ferguson’s hopes of fairytale comeback would be shattered as Chandler landed a devastating front kick KO.
Ferguson’s last win came from a second-round stoppage of Donald Cerrone in 2019
The 39-year-old was on the receiving end of one of the most devastating KO’s in MMA history against Michael Chandler
Following the fight, Ferguson revealed that he hadn’t sparred for ‘years’ and would look to change up his training before returning to action.
‘What I haven’t been doing is sparring. I have yet to spar.’ Ferguson told Submission Radio last year.
‘I haven’t f****** sparred in years. So, I’ve been doing this without sparring while everybody else has been around a lot of teams… I think it’s about damn time that I found myself a good team and be able to go start sparring again.’
Despite vowing to seek out a new team, the glimpses of greatness shown in his loss to Chandler were absent as he fell to a fifth-consecutive UFC defeat to Nate Diaz in September.
Ferguson has vowed to return to his former glory and will be back in action against Bobby Green at UFC 291 on Saturday.
A gatekeeper to the upper-echelons of the promotion’s talent-stacked lightweight division, fellow veteran Green represents something of a much-needed step down in competition for Ferguson.
But can Ferguson roll back the years and reembody the fighting spirit of El Cucuy?
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