Jorge Masvidal needed to fly midway around the globe on six days’ discover to get the primary UFC title shot in his 17-year combined martial arts profession.
Masvidal is not mad in regards to the twists that despatched him to Abu Dhabi this week with minimal time to coach for his struggle with Kamaru Usman on Saturday evening. Three spectacular wins final yr turned Masvidal into one of many UFC’s high rising stars on the tender age of 35, and he plans to trip his momentum right through the reigning welterweight champion at UFC 251.
“The rationale I am right here is as a result of I’ve taken alternatives like this previously,” Masvidal mentioned. “I’ve simply acquired to benefit from it. It is what I like to do. It is what I’ve accomplished since I used to be a toddler. I’ve simply acquired to provide it all the pieces I’ve acquired.”
The showdown between Masvidal (35-13) and the hard-nosed Usman (16-1) headlines the UFC’s greatest present of the summer time on Yas Island, the vacationer vacation spot that has been taken over by the UFC and rechristened “Battle Island.”
UFC 251 additionally options featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski’s first title defence towards long-reigning champ Max Holloway, together with vaunted Petr Yan’s bout towards former champ Jose Aldo for the vacant bantamweight belt.
However probably the most compelling fighter on an especially fascinating card is probably going Masvidal, whose tenacity inside and outdoors the cage has turned him from a cult hero right into a mainstream MMA star.
A former yard brawler in his native Miami, Masvidal did not crack the UFC roster till his late 20s, and he endured a handful of powerful losses that slowed his progress. Consecutive stoppages of Darren Until, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz final yr turned him into a serious draw, and he has been decided to capitalize on it.
He negotiated with the UFC for this shot at Usman, however the talks fell aside over cash, and the promotion made the curious resolution to provide the title shot to Brazil’s Gilbert Burns as an alternative.
However Burns examined optimistic for coronavirus final week, and the UFC went again to Masvidal to maintain its card intact. Masvidal shortly headed to the Center East for his first title shot after seven years and 18 fights within the UFC.
“I am as ready as I must be for Usman, however it’s not like a full coaching camp,” Masvidal mentioned. “However my thoughts is prepared, and my coronary heart is prepared. There are different guys I may have fought that might have made it laborious on six days’ discover. I believe [Usman] is the proper one. … I believe he is weak-minded.”
Usman stopped Colby Covington final winter to retain his belt, and his very good wrestling may flip a matchup with the hard-hitting Masvidal right into a tactical struggle that might vastly favour the champion.
“He took the struggle on brief discover, however let’s not act like he hasn’t been coaching for this,” Usman mentioned. “He is solely needed to practice for one man, and that is me. I used to be coaching for a very completely different man. … It did not actually matter to me. I skilled and was ready to get right into a scrap. It did not matter who the face was.”
Volkanovski, Holloway run it again
Volkanovski (21-1) gained his belt final December with a transparent resolution over Holloway (21-5), one of many UFC’s hottest current champions. The promotion ordered an instantaneous rematch, and Holloway has vowed to keep away from his errors within the first struggle. However the athleticism and exercise confirmed by Volkanovski within the first struggle present a transparent path for the Australian champ.
Aldo (28-6) was the UFC’s long-reigning featherweight champion till Conor McGregor dethroned him in 2015, and he absorbed back-to-back knockout losses to Holloway in 2017. Aldo additionally has misplaced his final two fights, however he curiously acquired this title shot from the UFC after Henry Cejudo abruptly retired. Additionally faces a stiff process towards Yan (14-1), a youthful, gifted Russian on a nine-fight successful streak towards high quality opponents — albeit none with Aldo’s abilities and pedigree.
Return of Thug Rose
Former strawweight champion Rose Namajunas (8-4) is again for the primary time since dropping her title in Could 2019 to Jessica Andrade (20-7), who subsequently misplaced the belt to Zhang Weili. Namajunas and Andrade will struggle a rematch at UFC 251. The favored Namajunas seemed to be successful their first bout till Andrade ended the struggle with an astonishing energy slam, however Andrade insists her victory wasn’t a fluke.
To accommodate the pay-per-view viewers in North America, the fights will begin effectively earlier than daybreak on Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi, with the primary occasion nonetheless within the early hours.
“Not solely did I’ve to get adjusted to the time reasonably fast right here, I’ve to get adjusted to combating at Eight within the morning,” Masvidal mentioned. “It makes the journey a bit bit extra memorable.”