Alan Jouban considers Paddy Pimblett the perfect opponent for Tony Ferguson: ‘The most beatable guy with the biggest draw’

When Tony Ferguson vs. Paddy Pimblett was announced for UFC 296, Alan Jouban felt like the promotion was feeding an old lion to a young, hungry up and comer seeking to build his name off a legend.

On paper that assessment made perfect sense. Ferguson has lost his last six fights in a row — four by knockout or submission — while Pimblett holds a perfect 4-0 record in the UFC and he’s one of the fastest rising stars on the roster. It wasn’t until he really started breaking down the fight that Jouban understood the method behind the madness of the UFC’s matchmaking.

“This is the best fight that Tony Ferguson could have gotten,” Jouban explained on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “Because you know why? Who is the most beatable guy with the biggest draw in the UFC? It’s Paddy Pimblett. Paddy Pimblett has the biggest fanbase, the biggest name, the biggest following in that group of category of guys that’s beatable. He’s very beatable. I thought he lost that fight earlier in the year [to Jared Gordon].

“When I got the news, I thought they’re throwing a legend to the dogs. Because Tony is a legend in his own way for what he’s done. But when I thought about it, I go what else — you give him a Jalin Turner or some young bull, some guy in his prime, you give the old lion that. But this is a guy in Paddy Pimblett who’s beatable. He’s young and he’s growing and he’s got good submission skills on the ground, he kind of just muscles it out and toughs it out on the feet and Tony Ferguson is well beyond his prime years but this is a winnable fight and it’s got the maximum upside for Tony Ferguson.”

Because Pimblett has such star power, he commands a lot of attention when he competes, but he hasn’t come anywhere close to facing top 15 ranked competition yet.

He squeaked by Jared Gordon in a controversial decision back in December 2022, and he’s been out of action ever since due to injury. Now he returns to face an opponent in Ferguson, who everybody recognizes is likely on his last legs with the sand starting to run out of the hourglass on his career.

While Pimblett definitely enjoys a sizable fanbase, he’s also earned more than a few detractors along the way and that’s where Jouban feels like Ferguson can rise to the occasion with this fight.

“If Tony Ferguson beats Paddy Pimblett, all of a sudden Tony Ferguson is that guy,” Jouban said. “Tony Ferguson, all of the doubters, all of the naysayers that have been on him, all of sudden he’s everybody’s hero that is against Paddy Pimblett. Because that’s what it is.

“When you’re a star, you’ve got an equal amount of haters as you do fans and Paddy Pimblett has a huge amount of both. A lot of people don’t like Paddy Pimblett. So Tony Ferguson now becomes the hero to all these people wanting desperately for Paddy Pimblett to lose.”

On the flipside, Jouban argues that Ferguson losing doesn’t really change the narrative around his career at all.

While a seventh consecutive loss would be devastating and potentially the end of his UFC career, Jouban believes that’s exactly what everybody was saying after Ferguson fell to defeat for the sixth straight time as well. Losing to Pimblett only reinforces what’s been said about Ferguson already but a win could completely turn things around for him.

“If Tony Ferguson loses, at this point, I’m kind of like so what?” Jouban said. “He’s already lost six in a row. He’s already been finished four times. We know he’s not in his prime. They built the younger guy off the older veteran. That’s the story of fighting. We see it done all the time. So it doesn’t really affect me all that much.

“I think this is a tremendous fight for Tony. It could honestly go either way but a loss, it’s another loss for Tony. We have the same conversation we’ve had for the last three fights in a row. Maybe it’s time to hang them up. But a win? Come on, Tony Ferguson’s going to be on top.”

As much as a loss might spell the end of Ferguson’s career, Jouban actually believes a win might give him the chance to go out on his own terms without being forced to hang up his gloves for the last time.

Jouban couldn’t imagine a better finale for Ferguson’s career than going out and beating a young superstar like Pimblett and then calling it a career right on the spot.

“I want this for Tony so bad,” Jouban said. “So he can have that feeling again. He probably feels like he wants to hang them up, I want to hang it up, but I can’t on these type of terms. But with a win over Paddy Pimblett, if he feels like it’s time, I think he’d be able to walk away from the sport.

“If you get the win Saturday night, you lay those gloves in the center of the octagon and people are going to love you. They’re going to love him.”

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