Tony Ferguson didn’t have a lot to say at UFC 274’s pre-fight press conference, but he did make his words count.
A day after venting his frustrations with the UFC and its president Dana White in an explosive appearance at UFC 274 media day, the former interim lightweight champion continued that conversation in front of a packed house at Phoenix’s Arizona Federal Theatre. When asked if he was going to lobby White to once again raise the promotion’s customary post-fight bonuses from $50,000 to $75,000 just as he famously did before UFC 262, Ferguson instead called upon the UFC to supply its fighters with health insurance.
” I’d suggest we get insurance for these fighters,” Ferguson stated.
“Let’s raise the tier up. You know what I mean? When they did the Reebok [uniform] deal [in 2014], they had tiers, so how many fights you had inside the octagon. I’d say we do the same thing, man. All of us have families. We have to all support our systems. Let’s make that ***, man. I don’t know, Dana’s not here, but [let’s get] insurance.”
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) May 6, 2022
The UFC’s former sponsorship deal with Reebok — and current deal with Venum — allocated money out to athletes in tiers depending on their tenure with the promotion. The more fights an athlete had with the UFC, the higher their sponsorship payout.
UFC fighters can be classified as independent contractors. They do not currently receive any health insurance from UFC — a point that heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou also raised during the contract dispute with UFC.
Ferguson renewed his calls on Thursday, which drew a swift nod from Justin Gaethje. Gaethje is scheduled to challenge Charles Oliveira to the lightweight title Saturday. However, Gaethje was not afraid to answer the original question Ferguson asked.
” I want more bonuses,” Gaethje stated. For sure, I want bigger bonuses. Also, health insurance. But bigger bonuses.”
“I’m a grown ass man,” Ferguson responded. Ferguson replied, “I must look [out] after my family. So insurance is cool with .”
Ferguson is set to face former Bellator champion Michael Chandler in a featured bout on UFC 274’s pay-per-view card.
At 38 years old and still reeling from a three-fight losing skid, Ferguson knows his back will be against the wall at UFC 274. Ferguson, who has been long considered one of the top lightweights in the country, isn’t paying much attention to any pressure at the moment.
“I’m having fun now. This is actually really fun. I’m excited,” Ferguson said.
” I’m so excited to get in there and just do what I imagined on the drive here — getting my hand up in victory .”
Ferguson’s opponent, Chandler, finds himself in a similarly pressurized situation after dropping back-to-back bouts against Gaethje and Oliveira in his last two UFC fights.
A win on Saturday would catapult Chandler back into the title picture, while a loss could torpedo his title hopes for the foreseeable future. He knows that nothing is easy for the “El Cucuy .”
“That’s what I’ve said since the very beginning, that’s why this fight wakes me up early, and that’s why this fight scares me, and that’s why this fight has motivated me — Tony Ferguson is a certified 1-of-1 talent,” Chandler said. “He’s hard to prepare for. I can’t find anyone who could show that kind of look in the gym. He has proven that there’s a way to get out of his misery, as his winning streaks show. It’s my goal to compete and get a finish .”