An internalized gripe was vented early during Thursday’s event, which featured both co-main event fighters, as well as headliners Michael Chandler and Charles Oliveira.
The verbal spat began with a comment from Dariush (20-4-1 MMA, 14-4-1 UFC), who took exception with Ferguson (25-5 MMA, 15-3 UFC) talking trash about Khabib Nurmagomedov in the opening minutes rather than focusing on the matchup at hand.
“I had one of the best camps ever,” Dariush said. “I’m looking forward to fighting Tony, and I think Tony needs to recognize that I’m in front of him. He needs to not worry about Khabib right now. He needs to worry about me.”
Ferguson, 37, responded in vintage, quirky “El Cucuy” fashion. He didn’t let Dariush finish before he hurled his rebuttal. Dariush’s training sessions with former opponent Justin Gaethje irked Ferguson, and he let the world know it.
“Hey, homie, I already know that you went to help Justin Gaethje,” Ferguson said. “You’re a little b*tch for going out there and helping him fight for the title. I didn’t know you did that. You listened to (your manager) Ali Abdelaziz, and he f*cking manipulated your ass. … Look, I have nothing against you. But seriously, my punches are going to f*cking starch your ass. I’m going to knock you out.”
Dariush calmly responded, “Listen, bud. If you asked me to help, I would’ve helped you, too. But here we are.”
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Ferguson didn’t let it end there. He brushed off Dariush’s sessions with high-level, well known UFC athletes, whether it’s Gaethje or the stable Dariush surrounds himself with at Kings MMA under coach Rafael Cordeiro.
“I don’t care how many f*cking ‘Ultimate Fighter’ f*cking people you have over there at Kings MMA,” Ferguson said. “Look, at Kings MMA you have how many UFC fighters training with you? It was the same thing on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ when they all went against me. You know what the f*ck happened with them.”
The two lightweight contenders exchanged some more verbal jabs before UFC president Dana White intervened and asked for the next question.
When it came time to face off, Ferguson and Dariush shook hands. They’ll go eye to eye one more time at Friday’s UFC 262 weigh-ins before they meet in the cage under the bright lights.
UFC 262 takes place Saturday at Toyota Center. The main card streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view after prelims on ESPN/ESPN+.