Following Kamaru Usman’s thrilling welterweight title defense over Colby Covington last December in Las Vegas, many agreed that Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal was the fight to make and it was even reported that the UFC was targeting the fight for July.
In recent months, however, Masvidal has butted heads with the UFC over his pay and the two sides were unable to reach a deal, which led the promotion to book Usman against Gilbert Burns as the headliner for this Saturday’s UFC 251 on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
Those plans changed this past weekend though when it was reported that Burns had tested positive for COVID-19 and was unable to fight. And despite continuing to be outspoken regarding fighter pay in recent weeks, it was Masvidal who stepped up on short notice, working out a deal with the UFC and agreeing to fight Usman on six days’ notice.
And according to White, it was an ‘absolutely brilliant’ move for the man known as “Gamebred” to make.
“It’s like the (Justin) Gaethje and Tony Ferguson fight. Gaethje saw the opportunity and took it. It was brilliant of Masvidal to slide in after Gilbert Burns tested positive,” White told TMZ Sports.
“Gilbert Burns is the No. 1 ranked guy in the world. It was a great fight, it fell out. The fight the people want to see, the people’s fight, is this fight. it was absolutely brilliant of Masvidal to slide into this spot and take the fight.”
Jorge Masvidal, a longtime veteran of the sport, has put together an incredible run over the last year and a half or so, taking his stardom to new heights with impressive stoppage victories over Darren Till, Ben Askren, and Nate Diaz. The five-second victory over Askren is the fastest win in UFC history and the high profile stoppage of Diaz landed “Gamebred” the BMF title.
Usman, meanwhile, has also been on a tear, establishing himself as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world by putting together a 15-fight winning streak. Most recently, he won the 170-pound title with a one-sided victory over Tyron Woodley in March 2019 before beating Covington late last year.
UFC 251 will feature two other title fights as well, as Petr Yan and Jose Aldo will do battle for the vacant bantamweight title, while Alexander Volkanovski will put his 145-pound title on the line against former titleholder Max Holloway in a rematch.
Long Island-based sports writer covering MMA, Boxing, and the New York Jets.