Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, June 1, 2011 | 11:45 p.m.
A coach of UFC hopeful Tony Ferguson once invited a child from a neighboring church to come and watch workouts in his gym.
After the youngster witnessed Ferguson beat up a handful of training partners, he muttered two words — “El Cucuy”.
“In Spanish, it’s ‘the bogeyman,’” Ferguson explained earlier this year on the set of "The Ultimate Fighter." “I’m pretty scary. It’s like my alter ego when I get in the cage.”
It’s a side of Ferguson that the cast of the 13th season of TUF became all too familiar with. The 26-year-old Ferguson blazed his way through the reality show tournament with three knockout victories.
He scored a third-round TKO over Chuck O’Neil in the semifinals on Wednesday’s episode to clinch a spot in Saturday’s TUF 13 Finale card at the Palms. Ferguson (10-2) will meet Ramsey Nijem (4-1) for "The Ultimate Fighter" championship and a $100,000 UFC contract.
“Ramsey knows what he’s up against,” Ferguson said on the show. “I’m going to fight him. I’m going to make an example, and I’m going to show everyone that this is where I belong.”
Ferguson finished his other two opponents on the show in the first round, as he landed an upkick to take out Justin Edwards 4:56 into a fight and knocked out Ryan McGillivray in 45 seconds. In addition, Ferguson had TKO victories in each of his last two fights before appearing on TUF.
Ferguson said he thought his athletic background would be the difference on the show when he first arrived in Las Vegas for taping. He was a standout athlete in football, baseball and wrestling in high school. Ferguson went on to wrestle at three different colleges, finishing at Grand Valley State in Michigan and winning a Division III national championship.
He discovered mixed martial arts after moving back to his birthplace of Ventura, Calif., four years ago. Ferguson worked as a bartender when a man slipped him a card with the address of his MMA gym.
“I thought, ‘Alright. Cool,' so I went and checked it out,” Ferguson said. “They threw every good guy they could at me and I took them all down.”
Ferguson’s career took off from there and he won the welterweight championship in a California-based promotion called PureCombat before going on TUF.
But Nijem has looked just as impressive as Ferguson on the show. He submitted his first two opponents, Mick Bowman and Clay Harvison, before earning a second-round TKO against Chris Cope in the semifinal episode that aired Wednesday.
Nijem, who trains with TUF 11 champion Court McGee, had a message for Ferguson on the show.
“This is my dream,” Nijem said. “I’m not going to let you take it from me and I’m going to take it from you, so be ready for me, Ferguson.”
Ferguson and Nijem were on opposite teams in the competition. Brock Lesnar drafted Ferguson fifth out of 14 at the beginning of the season, while opposing coach Junior dos Santos selected Nijem seventh.
“I will for sure be rooting for Ramsey,” dos Santos said on the show. “When you are a nice guy, nice things come for you.”
“Tony is great on his feet and he’s got great wrestling,” Lesnar said. “We’re just hoping his pure athleticism makes up for some things.”
As usual, the UFC has put a few other bouts featuring members of the TUF season on this weekend’s finale card. As the two losers from the semifinals, Cope and O’Neil will meet in a consolation fight of sorts during the card’s Spike televised main card that starts at 6 p.m.
Edwards and Harvison are also expected to meet. A bout between Shamar Bailey and Ryan McGillivray rounds out the list of matchups between TUF cast members.
Although the UFC has not officially announced the last three bouts, some of the fighters took to their twitter accounts Wednesday night after the show aired to release the news.
“In flight, en route to Vegas,” Bailey wrote. “Kind of excited for this fight.”