Tony Ferguson claims he has not done any hard MMA sparring for years. Of course, it could just be mind games on his part; like when Georges St. Pierre released videos of himself doing gymnastics moves. It’s not that gymnastics is useless; it’s that it is impossible to conceive that Georges St. Pierre is spending a fight camp doing nothing but gymnastics.
But when Tony says he doesn’t spar, I believe him. And here’s why. First of all, nothing about Tony Ferguson is an act or a ruse. I choose to take his statements at face value.
Perhaps more importantly, though, there is legitimate reason for Tony to avoid the hard sparring. Just take it from one of the most brilliant martial arts minds in the world, Firas Zahabi:
“A state of flow is [when] you’re having the right amount of difficulty, but it’s not so difficult that you go into stress, and it’s not so easy that you’re bored … When I go into the practice room, I am trying to create flow. I’m having fun. Training should be addictive.”
Nothing quite encapsulates Tony Ferguson more than “flow.” He never seems to be over-exerting himself. He’s always comfortable; always in his element. And as much we like to laugh at his open workouts and his training videos, we have seen him reap the fruits of this unique training.
Ferguson is quite remarkable. Eddie Bravo said it best: “[Tony] is like the ultimate MacGyver… construction… carpenter.” When asked about his unconventional training methods, Tony described it as “just having fun with it and not getting bored … So when I find myself not getting bored but almost starting to peak, I make sure and change it up just like the seasons. I make sure I keep it fresh.”
This approach to training goes back to what Zahabi mentioned about flow, and it could perhaps be the key to Ferguson’s longevity as a fighter (in spite of him having taken some serious damage through the years). It may also be how he was somehow able to rehab his knee all on his own after having surgery to repair his LCL back in 2018.
This is a man who does speed bag work blindfolded. He throws baseballs to practice his overhand right. He incorporates break dancing into seemingly everything, and he uses a Wing Chun dummy like he is auditioning for a role in Ip Man. I cannot say that everything he does is advisable…
But we may want to dispense of the idea that Tony doesn’t know what he is doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing, he loves it, and he excels at it.