UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman was set to face Gilbert Burns in the main event of UFC 251 on July 11 in Abu Dhabi, but the 33-year-old Nigerian-born American is now on his way to an even bigger and better matchup against Jorge Masvidal after his original opponent fell off the card due to illness.
The smoke surrounding the new main event began on Friday night. By Sunday, it was officially announced by the UFC.
— UFC (@ufc) July 6, 2020
Usman vs. Masvidal Timeline of Events
On Friday, Masvidal’s manager suggested his fighter was ready to step in, though some believed that to be just talk.
But Usman had taken to social media by Saturday to suggest he actually might be on his way to facing Masvidal next weekend in the UFC’s inaugural pay-per-view card on Fight Island.
“Might be time for the Pig to squeal,” Usman posted.
Might be time for the Pig to squeal 😏😏
— KAMARU USMAN (@USMAN84kg) July 4, 2020
According to MMA journalist Chamatkar Sandhu, one of “Masvidal’s friends” then posted a negative COVID-19 test result on Instagram with a caption that suggested he was suddenly on his way to Fight Island.
Unclear who's Covid-19 test this actually is, but one of Jorge Masvidal's friends posted this test result on Instagram and it's negative 👀 (via IG/CHARLIE_DECCA) pic.twitter.com/qpBG2LsmvM
— Chamatkar Sandhu (@SandhuMMA) July 4, 2020
Soon after that post, ESPN reported Masvidal was being tested himself.
Jorge Masvidal is getting tested for COVID-19 🤔
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) July 4, 2020
So there definitely seemed to be some serious steam behind Usman vs. Masvidal potentially becoming the new main event for UFC 251.
In fact, ESPN’s Ariel Helwani revealed hours later that there were “active negotiations” to book the fight.
IF they get a deal done, and IF they pass all their tests, and IF Masvidal, the 17-year vet who started in the backyards of Miami, somehow pulls this off and wins this belt after all these years under these crazy circumstances … that would be legendary status right there.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) July 5, 2020
By the following afternoon, Helwani had reported the negotiations were complete and that all there was left to do were medical tests and travel arrangements.
Helwani posted, “Negotiations for Usman vs. Masvidal are done, per sources. All sides agreed to terms. Usman is en route to LV; Masvidal landed earlier. Once at the hotel, they’ll have to take a COVID test and then quarantine while awaiting results. If negative, they’ll fly to AD likely tomorrow.”
Negotiations for Usman vs. Masvidal are done, per sources. All sides agreed to terms. Usman is en route to LV; Masvidal landed earlier. Once at the hotel, they’ll have to take a COVID test and then quarantine while awaiting results. If negative, they’ll fly to AD likely tomorrow.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) July 5, 2020
So it really started to look like Usman had a surprise megafight ahead of him at UFC 251 on July 11 in Abu Dhabi.
Usman Wants to Hear Masvidal ‘Squeal Like a Pig’
Usman previously referred to Masvidal as a pig in March, suggesting that facing the UFC “BMF” champ at a venue without fans because of the global COVID-19 pandemic would give Usman the chance to hear his opponent “squeal like a pig” inside the cage.
Now Usman vs. Masvidal is a reality. It’s a big win for fight fans all over the world, and both fighters were anxious enough to get their hands on each other that they agreed to fight on just six days’ notice.
Usman-Masvidal Supposedly Done Deal in January
White already revealed Usman vs. Masvidal to be on its way back in January, but the fight never materialized.
Then, the UFC “BMF” champ has called for his release after it became apparent UFC officials didn’t seem to believe Masvidal was worth what the fighter thought he was.
Regardless, fans were looking forward to seeing Usman vs. Masvidal inside the Octagon, so Burns being pulled off the card with less than a week to go seems to have produced the right set of circumstances for the fight to finally be made.
Usman needed an opponent worthy of being in the main event, and Masvidal was the best available.
In fact, Masvidal might be the best title challenger at 170 pounds the company has to offer.
Usman-Masvidal Makes UFC 251 Can’t-Miss PPV
Usman-Masvidal saves UFC 251 from being just another card.
The card was salvageable without Usman’s next title defense, but since UFC 251 is supposed to be the first event on UFC’s Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, it probably makes sense for the company to make it as memorable as possible.
That’s probably why the original line-up featured three UFC title fights in the first place, something that had happened only five times before in the company’s history.
So adding Masvidal to the card was the right move.
It gives fans the fight they most want to see in the welterweight division, allows for Burns to lay in wait for the winner and makes UFC 251 the kind of can’t-miss UFC PPV card that only comes around once every year or so.
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