Tony Ferguson suffered his first defeat in nearly eight years at this past weekend's UFC 249 pay-per-view event - and judging by the injuries he sustained, it is going to be some time until we see him back in the Octagon.
Ferguson (25-4) was stopped in the final round of his UFC interim lightweight title bout with Justin Gaethje on Saturday night. Frankly, though, the fight should have been stopped sooner.
Gaethje (22-2) battered Ferguson for much of their contest, landing hurtful left hands almost at will. In total, "The Highlight" connected with 100 strikes to the head of his opponent.
Following the fight, Ferguson's face indeed told the tale of what went down - with extensive damage to his right eye.
Now, the exact toll that the fight took on Ferguson has been revealed. Per thesun.co.uk, "El Cucuy" sustained a broken orbital bone and faces a long period on the sidelines.
Make no mistake, Gaethje put on a career-best performance at UFC 249. With that said, however, Ferguson looked far from his best, failing to show much of the dynamic skillset that has brought him success in the past.
One possible explanation for this is that Ferguson insisted upon making weight for his original April 18 fight date with Gaethje - even though it had already been cancelled!
In Ferguson's mind, of course, he was simply proving that he possesses the mentality of a champion. However, Ferguson reportedly cuts more than 20lbs to make the lightweight limit of 155lbs.
To cut that sort of weight twice in a period of less than a month is a considerable feat - and UFC president Dana White suggested after the fight that this decision might have played a part in Ferguson's defeat.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Gaethje," insisted White. "He fought an incredible fight, but I thought Tony looked off tonight.
"I thought he looked slow, and I would have to imagine that cutting weight twice in a month will affect you. So I don’t know if that’s it or what.”
White also praised Ferguson's toughness, but echoed the sentiments of those who felt the fight should have been halted earlier.
“The guy isn’t human. He’s got a chin. Nobody takes Gaethje’s punches like that – nobody I’ve seen since I’ve been watching Gaethje fight. But this kid did. I think the fight could have been stopped a little sooner.
“Tony took a lot of damage tonight. Not only did he take a lot of damage, he took damage from a guy who f****** hits like a truck, a guy who hits very hard, and usually knocks people unconscious when he hits people...So I actually think the stoppage was great, and I think it could have been stopped sooner.”
This image of Ferguson in his hospital bed the morning after the fight has since emerged, and you can just tell how much damage Gaethje caused. OUCH!
Throughout combat sports history, when a fighter takes the sort of sustained punishment that Ferguson did at UFC 249, they are rarely the same again.
Ferguson can come back, but faces a long lay-off with his facial injuries. At 36-years-old, time is against him.
It feels as though we saw a lasting shift in the dynamics of the UFC lightweight division on Saturday night.
- Tony Ferguson pushes away Justin Gaethje after fight
- Khabib tweets immediately after UFC 249
- Henry Cejudo announces retirement at UFC 249