Jorge Masvidal might as well be wearing a cape right now. Because in a UFC world suddenly without its biggest superstar Conor McGregor, the 35-year-old from Miami is the closest thing the company has to a superhero that can save the day.
And Masvidal heads into UFC 251 on July 11 in Abu Dhabi doing exactly that.
The Gambred BMF steps in on six days notice to fight on the #UFC251 card! here are a few tribute covers I did of @GamebredFighter #jorgemasvidal #gamebred #ufcfightisland🏝 #Fightposium pic.twitter.com/2CyXaShgRy
— fightposium – comic book illustrator (@fightposium) July 6, 2020
The UFC’s “BMF” champ is facing the most treacherous path possible to capturing his first divisional championship by taking on one of the most dominant champions in the sport. Kamaru Usman is a stalwart destroyer riding a 15-fight win streak. “The Nigerian Nightmare” hasn’t lost a fight in over six years.
UFC 251 takes place July 11 at 10 p.m. Eastern time on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.
To make matters more difficult, Masvidal took the fight on only six days’ notice and has to travel halfway around the world just to take his shot.
But knowing Masvidal, all these things are exactly the way he wanted them. Because Masvidal prides himself on being able to do big things, especially in circumstances where most people don’t believe he can pull it off.
“All these things are things that are just green lights in my head because I’m one dirty motherf***er.”
That’s what MMA’s King of Swag told me when I interviewed him for Bleacher Report a few months ago, and it appears that the same idea remains intact today.
It’s why Masvidal is the perfect fit for the void left by McGregor’s sudden retirement, and why “Gamebred” might be on the verge of becoming the world’s most popular UFC fighter.
Masvidal’s Authenticity Stands Out Among Crowd of Fakers
In a world full of copycats and wannabes, Masvidal has remained authentic.
He’s the kind of dude that talks the same way whether he’s ordering some food or discussing politics, and there’s just something about that kind of human being that attracts people.
That doesn’t mean everyone loves Masvidal. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of living true to one’s self is the inevitability that you cannot please everyone.
But it does mean Masvidal is respected by people, even those who might call themselves nonsupporters of the fighter.
That’s the same thing McGregor had going for him. Love him or not, people respected that they knew McGregor was always going to be himself even when it might have been better for him to try something else for a change.
Masvidal is cut from the same cloth. In a UFC too often full of people simply trying to reproduce McGregor’s path to stardom, Masvidal has the courage to be himself.
— UFC (@ufc) July 6, 2020
Masvidal’s Amazing Origin Story
If Masvidal is a superhero, then his origin story is one of the better ones out there.
“Gamebred” rose through the ranks of the early 2000s Miami streetfighting scene made popular by legendary brawler Kimbo Slice.
The late Slice (whose real name was Kevin Ferguson) was the “it” fighter of that amazing era of internet sensations, and Masvidal became over time the future superstar that same time period.
Masvidal’s claim to fame back then was beating up Slice’s main protege “Ray” both times they faced each other. Oh sure, Ray looked tough and mean, but Masvidal was the better fighter.
But where that fighter and others from the bygone era disappeared from the fighting world just as soon as the looming shadow of Slice’s legend exploded, Masvidal went on to parlay his $200 backyard streetfights into becoming one of today’s biggest UFC stars.
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Masvidal Just Pulled WWE-Style Power Move on His Boss
One of the most popular pro wrestling storylines to get recycled over and over again involves a single person taking on a host of corporate big wigs. That was the primary driver behind the rise of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin back in the late 1990s, and WWE storytellers did something very similar with Becky Lynch over the last few years.
It works because people love to root for the individual against corporate tyrants even in cases where that tyranny is just made-up.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) November 3, 2019
Masvidal’s beef with the UFC’s big boss Dana White is just like those popular storylines, except that it’s completely real.
So what’s happened between Masvidal and the UFC over the last few months is going to play super well with people who love to root against authority figures.
Masvidal demanded the company pay him more. When they didn’t budge, Masvidal stood his ground and suggested he could simply wait things out to his advantage.
And that is exactly what happened. So, in a way, Masvidal just took down an entire regime singlehandedly.
At least that’s how the storyline will play in the eyes of many, and Masvidal is sure to benefit from it.
The Courage of 6 Days Notice
The courage of attempting to climb the Usman mountain on just about six days’ notice shouldn’t go unrecognized here.
Honestly, all revere over the matter should flow to both fighters for taking the fight, though at least in Usman’s case he had been preparing for a fight on July 11 all along.
But Masvidal? This guy had no idea he’d be fighting on UFC’s first Fight Island card, but he took the opportunity when it was offered anyway.
Masvidal previously related to me his mindset on these types of matters when I interviewed him for Bleacher Report.
“Oh, this the tallest mountain, they’re saying. Oh no, this mountain is unscalable is what they’re saying,” Masvidal said. “Okay, well let me show you guys how quick I climb it.”
— UFC (@ufc) July 6, 2020
Masvidal’s Rise to Top Is Both Relatable and Admirable
Most importantly, Masvidal’s rise to the top of his field is completely relatable.
Maybe not in the specific particulars of the case. After all, not many UFC fighters, much less regular people, have ever or will ever travel the same kinds of roads Masvidal took to get where he is today.
Bare-knuckle street fights. Pro boxing. Bellator. Shark Fights. Strikeforce. UFC. That’s quite the wild ride.
But universally speaking, Masvidal’s path to his first UFC title shot at UFC 251 is the same type of thing most people have to encounter before their own success.
It’s also the same basic hero’s journey Hollywood producers covet.
Here is a guy born in a particular set of circumstances that didn’t seem all that conducive to success.
Masvidal was born into poverty to immigrant parents, and he didn’t burst onto the fighting scene with some kind of otherworldly athleticism that immediately made him better than everyone else he fought.
No, Masvidal improved the slow and hard way. He’s lost 13 fights in the professional MMA ranks, and his epic 2019 was precisely so startling because no one saw it coming.
But Masvidal did, and that’s the most important part.
Because the UFC’s “BMF” champ didn’t find himself in the position he’s in today by accident.
In that way, Masvidal might be most like McGregor. Where “Mystic Mac” could predict things and produce them with remarkable accuracy, Masvidal has seemed to be just as astute over recent years.
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