Sport

UFC 261: Tension still runs high between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal ahead of rematch


It was the fight that captured the attention of the combat sports world at the height of the first coronavirus lockdown, and Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal are set to dance once again with the stakes raised in Jacksonville, Florida. 

The pair’s first date was the result of a whirlwind six days in which Masvidal, 36, stepped in on short notice to fight Usman, 33, in the UFC’s first ever visit to Fight Island. 

‘Gamebred’ made headlines after jetting in last-minute on a private plane, donned in a Versace robe, from Las Vegas to Abu Dhabi, stopping off in Rome on the way for pizza. 

Kamaru Usman is looking to cement his legacy in Jacksonville, Florida

Jorge Masvidal is bidding to get his hands on the welterweight title

Tensions still run high between Kamaru Usman (L) and Jorge Masvidal (R) ahead of UFC 261

The welterweights lit up Fight Island following a whirlwind six days ahead of UFC 251 last year

The welterweights lit up Fight Island following a whirlwind six days ahead of UFC 251 last year

In truth, the fight ought to have been finalised long before fight night at UFC 251.

Having defeated Tyron Woodley for the title before literally silencing Colby Covington by breaking his jaw, there was only one man that fans wanted to see pitted against Usman in the octagon. 

Masvidal was, quite simply, the fighter of 2019. After spending over a year out of action, dallying with reality TV shows, ‘Street Jesus’ returned in emphatic fashion to knock out Darren Till in front of a packed O2 Arena.

The 36-year-old then secured the greatest knockout in UFC history after sending Ben Askren to sleep with an incredible flying knee kick, before rounding out the year by winning the inaugural ‘Baddest Motherf***er’ belt against Nate Diaz at Maddison Square Garden. 

Jorge Masvidal taunted the welterweight champion

Kamaru Usman was unmoved by the high-flying then-35-year-old

Their rivalry dates back to the 2020 Superbowl where they were separated by security 

Masvidal made a spectacular entrance to Fight Island, travelling by a chartered private jet

Masvidal made a spectacular entrance to Fight Island, travelling by a chartered private jet 

The 36-year-old even had time to stop off in Rome for pizza on his way to the Middle East

The 36-year-old even had time to stop off in Rome for pizza on his way to the Middle East

WARNING – SWEARING IN VIDEO BELOW 

When asked about a potential meeting for the welterweight title, both Usman and Masvidal claimed not to know the other, but the pair certainly had no trouble identifying one another at the Superbowl in 2020. 

‘Do something!’ Usman told Masvidal. ‘That’s all I hear you talking. Do something! You come up talking. Do something!’

Masvidal replied:’ You got a cast on, b****. I ain’t going to take advantage of you like that. You got a cast on b****. You lucky. That’s the only reason nothing’s happening.’ 

With the pair more than willing to meet in the octagon, the welterweight championship’s next title fight seemed ready to make. However, UFC chief Dana White could not strike an agreement with Masvidal and Gilbert Burns was instead booked to take on Usman. 

Disaster struck for White as Burns pulled out late with coronavirus, and there was only one man to call. 

However, Masvidal was unable to pull off the unlikely as Usman coasted to a comfortable win

However, Masvidal was unable to pull off the unlikely as Usman coasted to a comfortable win

Usman, 33, used his superior grappling and wrestling to keep the dangerous Masvidal at bay

Usman, 33, used his superior grappling and wrestling to keep the dangerous Masvidal at bay

But Masvidal was unable to write the fairytale ending that many fans wished for, with Usman’s world-class grappling and wrestling stifling Masvidal’s threat on the feet as the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ coasted to a unanimous points victory. 

Usman has gone onto settle his score with Burns, knocking him out and in so doing clearing out the division of any worthy challengers. 

Masvidal, meanwhile, has not fought since his Fight Island defeat, with Usman criticised for taking on the 36-year-old instead of Leon Edwards or Covington. 

But the 33-year-old says he accepted the Masvidal rematch because he was unsatisfied with the manner of his victory last time out, before claiming that he is seeking to lap his competition.

‘The reason why I wanted this fight was because I wasn’t truly satisfied with that first one,’ he told ESPN. ‘I took the fight on six days notice,I flew all the way to the other side of the world, with a broken nose, and still dominated this man. 

The welterweight king has gone onto beat Gilbert Burns to wipe out any serious competition

The welterweight king has gone onto beat Gilbert Burns to wipe out any serious competition

‘But I wasn’t satisfied with the way that I dominated him. I want to end this fight in emphatic fashion which is why we are replaying this fight. 

‘At the end of the day I am the best in the world because I am the best at mixing it up. I control the narrative. 

‘With Masvidal, this is like a race, I am so far ahead of all these guys right now that I am lapping them and Masvidal is the first guy. I have cleaned out the division and I am coming around and giving these guys a shot again.’

While Usman’s style is more akin to Khabib Nurmagomedov’s mauling technique than knockout machine Francis Ngannou, the 33-year-old’s desire is to ‘break’ his opponents so badly that the bitter taste of defeat will follow them until their dying days.

‘I want to break them inside,’ Usman added. ‘As a man, I want to break the other man inside and that breaks him for the rest of his life. 

Now, Usman wants to 'lap' his competition, beginning a series of rematches with Masvidal

Now, Usman wants to ‘lap’ his competition, beginning a series of rematches with Masvidal

‘You can sit there in your rocking chair when you are 72 and you will still remember that man that broke you. That is what I intend to do with every one of these guys.’

However, Masvidal has not taken kindly to Usman’s comments, branding the welterweight champion a ‘coward’ and vowing to prove who is the ‘real man’.

‘I am just excited. I am ready to go. I am ready to shut this show down. It’s going to be violence from start to finish,’ he told ESPN. 

‘I am going to expose the coward that he is. I say that with all honesty because he is nothing but a coward. Let’s get in there and find out who is a real man and who is not. 

‘I got in for 25 minutes with him, I never wobbled, I never got hit by him and thought “oh snap”. He doesn’t hit man, he doesn’t crack. 

‘The last guy he beat up was a BJJ guy [Burns], the guy before that he broke his jaw was a fragile wrestling guy [Covington]. 

However, Masvidal has other ideas and has vowed to defeat the 'coward' 170-pound king

However, Masvidal has other ideas and has vowed to defeat the ‘coward’ 170-pound king

'Gamebred' ridiculed Usman's punching power and has promised 'violence from start to finish'

‘Gamebred’ ridiculed Usman’s punching power and has promised ‘violence from start to finish’

‘These dudes aren’t made out of stone. People pay to see me because I am going to give them what they want. Entertainment and nothing but violence.’ 

When the pair first met, Masvidal was forced to shed 20 pounds in weight in a matter of days to reach the 170-pound weight limit. Now, ‘Gamebred’ says he is on track to ensure that the gruelling weight cut goes smoothly and that he will need to cut only ‘seven or nine pounds’ in weight.

It is a storied rivalry that has developed at just the right time for White. The pair’s dramatic meeting on Fight Island was one of the highest-profile fights of 2020, with the UFC 251 card garnering 1.3m PPV buys.

Now, the stakes have been raised. At 36, this may be Masvidal’s final chance to clinch UFC gold after eight years searching for the title. ‘Street Jesus’ would love to have his hand raised in his home state.

Usman could eclipse GSP's win record if he beats Masvidal to make it 14 on the spin

This may be Masvidal's last tilt at UFC gold

The stakes are high ahead of UFC 261, with Usman looking to cement his status as a great 

The 15,000 fans in Jacksonville will hope for fireworks as the UFC welcomes back supporters

The 15,000 fans in Jacksonville will hope for fireworks as the UFC welcomes back supporters

For Usman, the champion can leapfrog UFC legend Georges St-Pierre’s tally of 13-straight wins with a 14th consecutive victory in Jacksonville, Florida and cement his place as one of the greatest champions in the sport’s history. 

The wider significance of the occasion won’t be missed, either, as Usman and Masvidal headline the first UFC card to host fans Stateside since the pandemic forced sport behind closed doors last March, with the 15,000-seater VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena sold out for this weekend’s dust up. 

‘What an honour that I get to welcome back the world to regularity,’ Masvidal reflected. ‘It is such an honour, just for life to go back to the way it is. What a blessing it is, truly.’ 

Legacy and pride are on the line, now it is time for Usman and Masvidal to let the fighting do the talking.  

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button