UFC superstar Jorge Masvidal’s stock already seems to be falling like a rock right now in the eyes of many in the MMA community due to his backing of YouTuber Jake Paul over MMA star Ben Askren in Saturday’s boxing pay-per-view bout on Triller. But now Masvidal has also suddenly gone from being one of Shaquille O’Neal’s favorite fighters to just some random guy the NBA legend doesn’t know.
The retired 49-year-old basketball star appeared in an interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto and UFC president Dana White on Thursday and claimed not to know who the UFC “BMF” champion is. Okamoto asked Shaq about the upcoming rematch between UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and Masvidal at UFC 261, and O’Neal picked the champ.
Here's a pic of Shaq and Masvidal together in April 2020. 🧐
— Kelsey McCarson (@kelsey_mccarson) April 15, 2021
“I’m going with Usman because I don’t really know the other guy,” O’Neal said.
Shaq likes Usman to win the fight, but it’s his reasoning about his pick and subsequent comments during the same interview about other fighters that made it seem like he’s throwing shade at Masvidal.
You can watch the interview below.
You can read O’Neal’s full statement about Masvidal below.
“I like Usman,” O’Neal said. “I like how he’s just staying under the radar. He’s a consummate professional. I don’t really see him talking a lot of trash. He’s always in great shape, and he always puts on a good performance. He reminds me of a great NBA player who knows and understands that…I got to go perform…”.
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Why Shaq’s Shade Seems Intentional
O’Neal had previously stated Masvidal was among his favorite fighters. In an interview just last year, O’Neal even apologized to his friend “Jorge” for not naming him among his favorite fighters in a previous interview.
“He’s one of my favorite fighters,” O’Neal said. “Jorge, I forgot to mention you. I apologize.”
During that same chat in 2020, the Hall of Fame basketball player also explained why Masvidal was one of his favorite UFC stars.
He said, “To me, there are two different kinds of fighters. There’s the guys who come into fights in perfect shape, and then there’s the guys who just like to fight, like me. That’s what Jorge is.”
Additionally, Shaq explained how his experience working out with Masvidal at the gym helped him form his opinion. He said, “Wow, this guy is real. I can tell who is real and who is not real, and this guy is real. He’s definitely one of my favorites.”
You can watch some of that workout in the video below.
So Shaq knew the fighter well enough to work out with him and repeatedly call him by his first name in interviews but fast forward to 2021 and he suddenly doesn’t even know who Masvidal is.
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More Evidence Shaq Is Intentionally Shading Masvidal
Immediately after saying he “didn’t really know the guy” during his UFC 261 chat with ESPN, Shaq claimed the opposite about both Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler ahead of their upcoming battle at UFC 262. Additionally, he claimed picking either one of the fighters, you know, like he just did in picking Usman over Masvidal, could be viewed as disrespect.
“Since I know both those guys, I can’t just pick one,” O’Neal said. “You see, when I know both guys, I don’t want to pick just one. Then, guys think I’m disrespecting them, so I’m just going to say…I hope it’s a great fight and great turnout.”
But it didn’t stop there. O’Neal also went out of his way to pull Nate Diaz into the conversation so that he could praise him.
Masvidal defeated Diaz at UFC 244 in 2019 to become “BMF” champ after the fight was controversially stopped due to cuts around Diaz’s eye.
“What about my guy Nate Diaz? Sacramento slap?” Shaq said.
Obviously, Shaq should have said “Stockon slap”, but O’Neal went on to explain anyway why he liked Nate Diaz and his older brother, Nick Diaz.
“I actually like both Diaz brothers because they remind me of myself. We just don’t give a damn. We’re always going to put on a show, and it don’t matter who you put in front of us…,” O’Neal said.
Both Diaz brothers had their run-ins with Masvidal, and both attempted to lock horns with him following UFC 244. Neither got the fight.
Maybe one or some of these things could be seen as innocent happenstances, but it seems way more likely that Masvidal and Shaq are beefing.
Masvidal went from one of Shaq’s faves to someone he pretends not to know.
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