Dana White defends Paddy Pimblett vs. Tony Ferguson, but expects Ferguson to retire with loss

A hyped prospect against a legend feels like prime UFC matchmaking.

That’s UFC CEO Dana White’s explanation for the recent announcement of Paddy Pimblett vs. Tony Ferguson at UFC 296 in December.

“I think a lot of people think that Paddy is unproven, and I think a lot of people feel like this is a fight Tony isn’t in deep water like he’s been in, in his last several fights,” White said following the latest episode of The Contender Series. “I think the matchmaking and the timing on this fight is excellent and couldn’t be more perfect.”

Of course, Ferguson arrives at UFC 296 on a six-fight skid, which includes knockout losses to Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler as well as submission setbacks against Nate Diaz and Bobby Green.

During the prime of his career, Ferguson was a constant presence near the top of the lightweight rankings, and he once held the interim title at 155 pounds.

Unfortunately, numerous attempts to book him against then-UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov fell apart, so Ferguson never got the opportunity to claim the undisputed title.

Now, the 39-year-old veteran finds himself at a potential crossroads. A win over a potential superstar like Pimblett could reignite his career, but a loss could force him to make a decision on retirement.

“I would let Tony make that decision,” White said about Ferguson possibly retiring after UFC 296. “But I’m sure if he loses to Paddy he would probably look at calling it [a career].

“He’s had a great career. Done a lot of things, had a lot of big fights, and [another loss] probably would be a wrap for him, hopefully.”

Despite those dire stakes, the UFC CEO defended Ferguson’s opportunity to right the ship in going up against the largely untested Pimblett, who holds a 4-0 record in the promotion. Pimblett’s most recent fight ended in a highly controversial decision over Jared Gordon.

Meanwhile, Ferguson’s losses — outside of his recent fight against Green — have come against opponents who have either competed for a UFC title or currently occupy a spot among the top 10 lightweight fighters.

“If you look at Tony’s last few fights that he’s fought, he looked damn good,” White said about Ferguson. “Before the [Michael] Chandler finish, and every fight that’s he’s fought in the last two or three fights, he looked damn good, right up until the end. It’s a fun, interesting fight with two fun and interesting characters.”

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