Tony Ferguson didn't make a lot of friends on "The Ultimate Fighter 13". Despite ripping through four straight knockouts on the way to the season's crown, "El Cucuy" is most remembered for a misguided drunken rant towards Charlie Rader that left the 27-year-old vilified by fans and castmates alike.
Yet, almost a year removed from the incident, Ferguson appears to be a changed man.
The California-native has thrown his best effort into redefining his image, wearing suits during interviews, remaining reverential to his opponents, and speaking bluntly of the importance professionalism plays in mixed martial arts. Ferguson expanded on the notion in a recent interview with MMA Mania's Brian Hemminger.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It sounds like you've really taken the maturation process seriously now that you've gotten into the UFC.
Tony Ferguson: You know, you have to. This is my career. It's almost like I was in the mail room when I was six years old when I got started with wrestling. When you put in your time and you go through years and years of time and then you need to catch a break. My break was getting into the show but it's not over yet. It's like I got to the CEO level and then there was a big stack of paperwork that was left to do. You thought it was all done? Nope. That's how I feel. I'm still at the bottom and I'm still working my way up regardless of whether I won the show or not. That doesn't say nothing.
I had one bad night and it gave people tons of stuff to talk about. I realized that wasn't me. It was me, but it was a different personality. The UFC, you're supposed to grow up. I wasn't employed by the UFC then. This employment with Dana White giving me an opportunity, hell no I won't risk that. I straightened up. I've got a fiance. I've got a puppy, a little french bulldog, her name is Knuckles and this is it, man. This is what we live for, the ability to compete and be able to have fans that love watching you. It gives me an opportunity to express myself as a martial artist.