TONY FERGUSON's return to welterweight and drastic overhaul of his training wasn't just down to his recent skid – it was also the result of a dressing down from his wife.
The former interim lightweight champion will compete in the 170lb division for the first time in 11 years early on Sunday morning at UFC 279 in Las Vegas.
Ferguson's return to the weight class in which he won season 13 of the Ultimate Fighter follows a four-fight losing streak at 155lbs.
But it also comes on the back of being held accountable by his wife Cristina.
Ferguson told SunSport: "It's different now. It's not about looking out for everybody now, it's about looking after home base.
"My wife was the one that called me out. She said, 'When are you going to start training 100 per cent? When are you going to stop sandbagging?'"
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Ferguson is grateful for Cristina calling him out for not giving his all. He said: "I was like, 'Well, I was waiting for somebody to call me out. And I was like, 'Thank you.' I told her, 'Thank you.'"
In addition to switching weight classes, Ferguson has also changed team – setting up shop at JacksonWinkMMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The move has given the enigmatic 38-year-old renewed motivation and optimism for his Hall of Fame career.
He said: "I wasn't getting burned out, but trying to put things together when they're not fitting together is like having an invention that your working and you have all these tools that you're working with but none of these tools that you're using are working.
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"So you have to go and find the tools that are going to work for that problem and I've done that.
"I've done the homework, I've done the research and I've put together an amazing f***ing team of astronauts that are high level of knowing the sport.
"And it's cool to almost be able to crack a cold one with these guys and be able to understand and come up with these plays, man, like you're playing Madden Football and being able to go out there and make it happen.
"And they believe in me too, which is another thing. I'm not saying the others never did that, but it's a fresh start.
"And I believe that at 170lbs with my new team and my fresh start and going in there with a very game opponent and coming out with a victory is going to be a game-changer.
"Not for everybody, but for me. For my own self to get to where I want to be. Win or lose, I can always walk out like a man.
"But getting that victory and doing it with everything you did in practice, that's the sweet moment.
"Nobody knows that apart from you and your team. And that's where I'm at right now."
Not having to make the gruelling cut down to 155lbs has left Ferguson feeling stronger than ever, physically and mentally.
He said: "I'm more than ready [for this fight]. I've been lifting like crazy since the [Michael] Chandler fight and it's turned out really, really well.
"I'm holding weight on really good, I'm about 180ish and everything is really functional, man. I actually feel faster and stronger now, it's crazy."
The door on the stacked and exciting lightweight division, however, hasn't been closed by El Cucuy.
He said: "I'm still there. I'm just testing it out at 170lbs.
"I don't mind fluctuating back and forth. My bodyweight and everything can take it.
"And I have a full f****ing team of astronauts that I have put together who if you're in the middle space and you need to figure it out, I got the perfect team for it, dude."
The gatekeeper for Ferguson's return to welterweight will be China's Li Jingliang, who has won four of his last seven by knockout.
The Leech's exciting and fan-friendly style is one Ferguson is looking forward to testing himself against.
And returning to the win column against the No.14-ranked Jingliang will go a long way to silencing those who believe Ferguson's best days are behind him.
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He said: "I'm 14-2 with mostly knockouts at 170lbs. So I would love to be able to test my chances and see what we got there.
"Li Jingliang at UFC 279 is going to have to go home hurt because I'm going to come out with my hand raised in victory."
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