UFC asked Li Jingliang to fight Tony Ferguson at UFC 279 three hours before announcing bout

By Ryan Harkness - September 7, 2022

UFC 279 featuring Khamzat Chimaev vs. Nate Diaz got a much-needed boost to its undercard when the UFC announced that Tony Ferguson would be moving up to welterweight to fight Li Jingliang in the new co-main event.

Li Jingliang, Tony Ferguson, UFC 279

It was something of a last-minute addition, as the bout was announced at UFC 278 on August 20, just 22 days before UFC 279 takes place on September 10. And according to Li Jingliang, the matchmaking occurred just hours before the UFC revealed the fight on-air.

“After the fight with Muslim Salikhov, I told you guys I want to be back inside the Octagon as soon as possible,” Jingliang said in a UFC Instagram video. “The UFC noticed it, the matchmakers did their job, but I never thought it would be this soon. To speak the truth, they informed me just three hours early before they release to the press. The phone rang when I was watching UFC 278. They said, ‘Tony has agreed for this fight.'”


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“I was preparing to post a selfie with Tony as announcement on the next day. But you know, after the fight of UFC 278 Dana just simply told the media that this fight is a thing.”

Leading up to the Tony Ferguson vs. Li Jingliang announcement, Dana White addressed the weak UFC 279 undercard at a Contender Series press conference. At the time, the biggest fights outside the main event were Johnny Walker vs. Ion Cutelaba and Irene Aldana vs. Macy Chiasson.

“Yes, working on it today,” White said. “We’re going to throw a few more fights, not one. Yeah, it’s going to be a good card.”

Since that statement, the UFC added Tony Ferguson vs. Li Jingliang and Kevin Holland vs. Daniel Rodriguez to the event.

Jingliang’s most recent fight was a second round TKO win over Muslin Salikhov back in July of 2022. Previous to that, ‘The Leech’ got mauled by Khamzat Chimaev in just over three minutes at UFC 267 in October 2021. After an amazing 12-fight winning streak in the UFC’s ultra-competitive lightweight division, Tony Ferguson has gone 0-4 over the past two years. His latest defeat was against Michael Chandler via scary front kick knockout in May 2022.

Four months isn’t a very long time off after a KO that bad. Add in moving up a weightclass and you have analysts like Daniel Cormier questioning Tony Ferguson’s decision to accept this fight on his ‘DC & RC’ ESPN show.

“When you get knocked out at 155 by Michael Chandler, when you get TKO’d at 155 by Justin Gaethje, when you get dominated by Beneil (Dariush) and Charles Oliveira at 155, it would not seem like going up to welterweight would be the move. But if there is a guy that could let go of the past and everything that happened prior to go and try to make a statement, it is Tony Ferguson.”

What do you think, PENN Nation? Is Tony Ferguson biting off more than he can chew accepting this short notice fight at welterweight for UFC 279? Sound off in the comments!


Li Jingliang Tony Ferguson UFC UFC 279