Masvidal signs new contract ahead of UFC 251

MMA

Jorge Masvidal said in an interview Sunday night with ESPN’s Ariel Helwani that he has signed a new multifight contract with the UFC ahead of his bout against Kamaru Usman at UFC 251.

Masvidal said the UFC didn’t give him every single thing he asked for, but the deal came “very, very close” to that and he’s “happy” with it.

Masvidal had been one of the most vocal UFC stars in years on the topic of fighter pay. Last month, the welterweight star tweeted that if the UFC didn’t think he was worth it, the promotion should release him.

Those tweets were made as the negotiations between the UFC and Masvidal for a welterweight title fight against Usman fell apart. On Sunday — just six days before the fight — the two sides finally came to an agreement.

Usman will defend his welterweight belt against Masvidal in the main event of UFC 251 on Saturday in Abu Dhabi. Usman’s previous opponent, Gilbert Burns, withdrew Friday because of illness. Masvidal is stepping in on six days’ notice, though he was the challenger the UFC tabbed in the first place before contract talks halted.

“I’m happy more than anything because I get to break this guy’s face and get paid for it,” Masvidal said.

Masvidal said the UFC’s first offer last month for him to fight Usman was a “s— deal on the pay-per-view end and on the guaranteed side.”

“I can understand you don’t want to give me that much on the guaranteed,” Masvidal said. “But on the pay-per-view, what I bring in, what people purchase, I want more money on that and they weren’t budging. And that was that. So, all this craziness had to happen for them to come to their senses.”

Masvidal said he won’t stop speaking up about what he perceives as an issue with how much fighters get paid. But he said things have gotten closer to an understanding between him personally and the UFC.

“We’re not there yet, but we’re headed in that direction,” Masvidal said. “Moving forward after this fight, they’re gonna treat me accordingly. Or I’ll just step in last minute six days to go and get paid then, I guess. That’s the new scheme I have to do, whatever. But I’m gonna get paid every time out.”

Masvidal flew to Las Vegas on Sunday and passed a COVID-19 test. He was quarantining his a hotel room Sunday night and will be taking a private jet to Abu Dhabi on Monday. Usman is expected to leave Las Vegas on Monday as well. His manager, Ali Abdelaziz, told ESPN on Sunday night that “the fight is on.”

Regarding training and being ready to fight, Masvidal said he wasn’t in a full training camp, because he didn’t know he’d be competing in a fight until this weekend. But “Gamebred” said he had been at his American Top Team gym two or three times a week and lifting and staying active. Masvidal said he weighed 192 pounds on Saturday. He’ll have to weigh 170 pounds at maximum this coming Friday for the title fight to be official.

“I never stopped training,” Masvidal said. “I’m always training. But I’m not always in the gym doing the specifics.” Masvidal said that he believes he’s in adequate shape to fight Saturday, while taking a shot at Usman compared to two of Masvidal’s recent opponents.

“If you’re asking me, are you in shape?” Masvidal said. “… Maybe not to fight Ben Askren. I’m not in Ben Askren shape, because he’s a hell of a wrestler. Or even to fight a guy like Darren Till. But am I in shape for this bum I’m about to decapitate and baptize? Hell yeah.”

Masvidal will have 48 career pro fights Saturday when he makes the walk against Usman (pending further COVID-19 protocols in Abu Dhabi). That’s the second most ever for a fighter appearing in his or her first UFC title fight. If he wins, Masvidal already knows whom he wants to defend the welterweight belt against: Nate Diaz and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson.

Diaz praised the rescheduling of Usman vs. Masvidal this weekend, tweeting “real fighters are better fights.” Masvidal stopped Diaz via TKO due to a doctor’s stoppage at UFC 244 last November at Madison Square Garden. It was Masvidal’s third straight finish, propelling him to UFC stardom and the mythical “BMF” title. But it wasn’t the way he wanted to beat Diaz.

“No matter what, it was a good fight,” Masvidal said. “Me nor the world didn’t get the results that we wanted. I know Nate wants to run it back. I’m telling you — I’m speaking from the heart — I want to run it back.”

Of course, Usman is the opponent first. Masvidal envisions a vicious end at UFC 251.

“Cold-blooded as can be,” Masvidal said. “His body is grasping for air as I’ve got my hand raised over him. I’m gonna baptize him, man, for the world to see. It’s gonna be violent.”

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