In a remarkable turn of events over the weekend, the fight everyone had been clamouring to see between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal has officially come to fruition for next weekend’s UFC 251 event on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.
Masvidal had quickly indicated his interest in taking the short notice fight after Usman’s original opponent, Gilbert Burns, was forced out of the fight late last week after testing positive for coronavirus.
At first it seemed unlikely the fight could be made in time, given that Masvidal had only recently been in a bitter pay dispute with the UFC, not to mention the fact he’d still have to go through Covid-19 tests and get a chartered flight out to Yas Island in order to compete this coming Saturday night.
Nevertheless, the welterweight title fight has now been made official after the UFC hammered out a new deal with Masvidal that his manager reports the fighter is, “very happy” with, while ‘Gamebred’ has since successfully passed his first test for Covid-19 and is now flying to Fight Island from Las Vegas, six days removed from the bout.
UFC 251 had already appeared to be the most stacked card of the year, with the originally planned Usman vs. Burns 170lb title headliner being flanked by two more title bouts as featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski heads into a rematch with Max Holloway, while Jose Aldo fights Petr Yan for the vacant bantamweight strap.
However, in terms of the main event, as much as Burns rise to prominence and recent performances had been impressive, there’s no doubts that the fight fans wanted to see was Usman vs. Masvidal.
The reason for that is Masvidal has become one of the UFC’s hottest properties after a stunning 2019 campaign that began when he violently KO’d Darren Till in the UK, then went viral backstage after slapping one of his rivals, Leon Edwards backstage for verbal confronting him during a live interview.
Masvidal’s popularity spiked after that, but was then taken to new heights when he KO’d the previously undefeated Ben Askren with an incredible flying knee in just 5 seconds – securing an all-time UFC record for fastest finish.
The icing on the cake then came when he cashed in on his fame with a blockbuster fight for the specially made ‘BMF’ title against Nate Diaz, which he won by third round TKO.
Since then a title clash with current welterweight champion Usman has seemed like the fight to make, and the two have clashed publicly and on social media, which has only helped built momentum for the match-up.
The fact it’s now happening on such short notice is far from ideal, especially for Masvidal, who wasn’t preparing for a fight and is now going up against a dominant force in Usman, who hasn’t lost for seven years and is currently on an 11-fight winning streak that culminated in a fifth round TKO of Colby Covington last time out.
Nevertheless, it’s still a fight that’s going to capture fan’s imaginations and the whirlwind, against-all-odds nature of the fight booking is likely to generate a great deal of attention in the coming days, ahead of the biggest PPV of 2020.