Former GV wrestler earns UFC contract with reality show win


Courtesy photo


Brady Fredericksen

The stereotype linked to mixed martial artists is usually not a nice one. They are thought of as temperamental meat heads – the kind of guys who would rather do nothing more than beat someone up.

And though for Grand Valley State University alumnus and former wrestler Tony Ferguson, the stereotype is off the mark, Ferguson’s punches certainly are not.

Those punches, specifically a left-handed jab in the first round of The Ultimate Fighter 13’s championship match, won Ferguson a six-figure UFC contract and a $100,000 “Knockout of the Night” bonus for the knockout of his opponent, Ramsey Nijem.

“I was actually angry because I put in so much time into training, and I was prepared for a three-round fight,” Ferguson said of his first round knockout of Nijem. “I’m blessed to have it come out the way it did. It’s crazy, it’s nutty and I worked extremely hard for that knockout.”

Unlike many professional athletes, Ferguson’s mixed martial arts career was not a life-long craft. A nursing major at GVSU, he first heard about mixed martial arts through a patron at a California bar in 2007.

“I transitioned easily after playing sports growing up and naturally evolved to get my own style,” Ferguson said, also known by the nickname “El Cucuy,” which is Spanish for ‘The Boogeyman.’ “Grand Valley really helped me to refine and structure my style. My biggest thing is I want to finish something.”

Those California roots can be traced all the way back to Michigan, where a 165-pound wrestler from Muskegon, Mich. made quite the career journey.

After attending Central Michigan University in 2003, Ferguson transferred to GVSU after only two years, and after spending two more successful years wrestling for the club team, saw his career take off in Allendale.

A two-time All-American wrestler and one-time National Champion at the 165 lb weight class, Ferguson’s career at GVSU was a success that not only helped to make him one of the best wrestlers in GVSU club history, but has also helped him to evolve the mixed he is today.

“I think there’s a lot to be learned from wrestling in college,” said former GVSU club wrestling coach Dave Mills. “For Tony, I think being able to focus on goals – which was the team winning the national championship along with himself winning – has carried on with him to what he’s doing with the UFC.”

Defeating Nijem and winning The Ultimate Fighter opened new doors for Ferguson in his MMA career. The match was his first official fight in the professional boundaries of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and also secured Ferguson a true, professional career in the UFC.

“It’s very huge to win the show, but the thing is a champion is not going to be surprised at what they’ve done,” Ferguso said. “Right now there’s something else in my sights. I plan on taking this for a little ride, and I was back in the gym the following day. This is what I do naturally, and this is what makes me happy. “

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