It was the fight that caught the attention of the martial arts world at the height of the first blockage of the coronavirus, and Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal are set to dance again with the Jacksonville, Florida stakes.
The couple’s first date was the result of a six-day whirlwind in which Masvidal, 36, intervened on short notice to fight Usman, 33, on the UFC’s first-ever visit to Fight Island.
Gamebred made headlines after arriving last minute on a private plane, dressed in Versace robes, from Las Vegas to Abu Dhabi, stopping for pizza in Rome along the way.
Tensions still run high between Kamaru Usman (L) and Jorge Masvidal (R) ahead of UFC 261
The welterweights lit up Fight Island after a whirlwind six days ahead of UFC 251 last year
In reality, the fight should have ended long before fight night at UFC 251.
After beating Tyron Woodley for the title before literally silencing Colby Covington by breaking his jaw, there was only one man fans wanted to see against Usman in the Octagon.
Masvidal was simply the fighter of 2019. After more than a year out of action and spinning reality TV shows, “Street Jesus” emphatically returned to knock out Darren Till for a packed O2 Arena.
The 36-year-old then landed the biggest knockout in UFC history after sending Ben Askren to sleep with an incredible flying knee kick before finishing the year by the inaugural ‘Baddest Motherf *** er’ belt against Nate Diaz in Maddison. Square garden.
Their rivalry dates back to the Superbowl of 2020, where they were separated by security
Masvidal made a spectacular entrance to Fight Island, traveling on a chartered private jet
The 36-year-old even had time to stop in Rome for pizza on the way to the Middle East
WARNING – SULS IN THE VIDEO BELOW
When asked about a possible encounter for the welterweight title, both Usman and Masvidal claimed not to know the other, but the pair certainly had no trouble identifying each other at the 2020 Superbowl.
‘Do something!’ Usman told Masvidal. ‘That’s all I hear you talk. Do something! You come to talk. Do something!’
Masvidal replied: ‘You’ve got a cast on, b ****. I’m not going to take advantage of you like that. You have a cast on b ****. You lucky. That is the only reason why nothing is happening. ‘
With the pair more than willing to meet in the octagon, the next welterweight championship title fight appeared to be ready. However, UFC chief Dana White was unable to reach a deal with Masvidal and Gilbert Burns was instead booked to face Usman.
Tragedy struck for White when Burns retired late with the coronavirus and there was only one man to call.
However, Masvidal was unable to pull off the improbable as Usman drove to a comfortable victory
Usman, 33, used his superior wrestling and wrestling to keep the dangerous Masvidal at bay
But Masvidal was unable to write the fairytale ending that many fans longed for, with Usman’s world-class wrestling and wrestling quelling Masvidal’s threat as the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ rode to a unanimous victory on points.
Usman has gone on to settle his score with Burns, knocking him out, clearing the division of all worthy challengers.
Masvidal, meanwhile, has not fought since his defeat at Fight Island, with Usman being criticized for taking on the 36-year-old in place of Leon Edwards of Covington.
But the 33-year-old says he has accepted the Masvidal rematch because he was unhappy with the way he won last time before claiming to close his competition.
“The reason I wanted this fight was because I wasn’t really happy with the first one,” he said ESPN. ‘I took up the fight with 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 beaten Gilbert Burns to take out any serious competition
‘But I was not satisfied with the way I dominated him. I want to end this fight emphatically and so we are playing this fight again.
‘At the end of the day, I am the best in the world because I can mix the best. I control the story.
‘With Masvidal this is like a race, I am now so far ahead of all these guys that I am patching them and Masvidal is the first. I’ve cleaned up the division and I’m coming over and giving these guys another chance. ‘
While Usman’s style is more akin to Khabib Nurmagomedov’s destruction technique than to the knockout machine Francis Ngannou, the 33-year-old wants to ‘break’ his opponents so much that the bitter taste of defeat will follow them until their death.
“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 ‘overlap’ his competition and start a series of rematches with Masvidal
‘You can sit there in your rocking chair when you’re 72 and you still remember that man who broke you. That’s what I intend to do with all these guys. ‘
However, Masvidal has not kindly responded to Usman’s comments, labeling the welterweight champion a ‘coward’ and vowing to prove who the ‘real man’ is.
‘I’m just thrilled. I am ready to go. I am ready to close this show. It’s going to be violence from start to finish, ”he said ESPN.
“I’m going to expose the coward that he is. I say that in all fairness because he is nothing but a coward. Let’s go in and see who’s a real man and who’s not.
‘I came in to him for 25 minutes, I never staggered, I never got hit by him and thought’ oh snap ‘. He doesn’t hit a man, he doesn’t burst.
The last man he beat up was a BJJ guy [Burns], the man before he broke his jaw was a vulnerable struggling man [Covington].
However, Masvidal has other ideas and has vowed to defeat the 170-pound ‘cowardly’ king
‘Gamebred’ ridiculed Usman’s clout and promised ‘violence from start to finish’
“These guys aren’t made of stone. People pay to see me because I’m going to give them what they want. Entertainment and nothing but violence. ‘
When the couple first met, Masvidal had to lose 20 pounds in weight within a few days to hit the 170-pound weight limit. Now ‘Gamebred’ says he is on track to make sure the grueling weight loss goes smoothly and that he only needs to cut ‘seven or nine pounds’ in weight.
It’s a legendary rivalry that developed for White at just the right time. The couple’s dramatic encounter on Fight Island was one of the most talked about fights of 2020, with the UFC 251 card bringing in 1.3 million PPV purchases.
Now the stakes have been raised. At the age of 36, this may be Masvidal’s last chance at securing UFC gold after eight years of searching for the title. Street Jesus would love to raise his hand in his home state.
There’s a lot at stake for UFC 261, with Usman looking to cement his status as a greatness
Jacksonville’s 15,000 fans are hoping for fireworks when the UFC welcomes supporters again
For Usman, champion UFC legend Georges St-Pierre can skip ahead of 13 consecutive wins with a 14th consecutive win in Jacksonville, Florida, solidifying his place as one of the greatest champions in the history of the sport.
The broader significance of the occasion won’t be missed either, as Usman and Masvidal headline the first UFC card to Stateside fans since the pandemic forced sports behind closed doors last March, with the 15,000-seat VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena sold out for this weekend’s dust.
“What an honor to welcome the world back to the regular,” reflected Masvidal. It’s such an honor, just for life to get back to the way it is. What a blessing it really is. ‘
Legacy and pride are at stake, now it’s time for Usman and Masvidal to let the fight speak.