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The returning Paddy Pimblett has said that it will be one of the bigger honours of his career to trade blows with Tony Ferguson — but he doesn’t intend to give ‘El Cucuy’ an easy ride. 

The Liverpudlian fights at this weekend’s UFC 296 card for the first time in a year following his controversial bout with Jared Gordon which ignited a media firestorm as to the bout’s rightful victor and in which he sustained an ankle injury which would require surgery sidelining him for almost all of 2023.

But now fit once again, Pimblett will seek to score his fifth successive win in the UFC’s lightweight fold against one of the biggest names in the division’s history, Tony Ferguson, the former interim 155-pound champion who has more recently had a six-fight skid of defeats.

And while Pimblett says he wants to see Ferguson have some success before he calls it a day in his fight career, he told the media in Las Vegas on Wednesday that it certainly won’t come against him.

“It’s an honour to be able to fight Tony Ferguson,” Pimblett told reporters, including The Mac Life. “[He is] one of the best lightweights of all time. When I was a kid watching UFC at 15, 16, when I just started training, he was in the UFC then. I was watching him fight then. So it’s like that cliche saying when your heroes become your rivals. It’s one of them. Even I want to see Tony go out on a win, but I can’t let him do it at my expense. It’s not happening.”

Ferguson, who formerly pieced together a 12-fight win streak at 155, has seen his results nosedive in more recent bouts and Pimblett said that this is what can happen to ageing fighters when their skills begin to erode over time.

“He’s 40 in a few months and I think over the years he’s relied on his athleticism and his speed to get him out of certain situations and obviously when you get to 39 you lose all that,” Pimblett explained. “But I’ve trained for the Tony that turned up against Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis and Edson Barboza and Kevin Lee. I haven’t prepared for the Tony that turned up against Bobby Green and Nate Diaz.”

In his own comments to the media, meanwhile, Ferguson said that he will have little mercy for Pimblett once the cage door shuts.

“Got the kid nervous,” Ferguson said. “So I think it’s a great matchup. Obviously, he’s got a winning record, I’ve got a losing record right now with that, but overall I have a lot more fights and experience. I’m going to cut this kid.

“I’m going to hit him hard. I’m going to set the pace. I’m going to make his face a ketchup sandwich.”