After Gilbert Burns tested positive for COVID-19 and was pulled from next weekend’s UFC 251 welterweight title fight against Kamaru Usman, the UFC acted quickly to find a replacement. That replacement is the UFC’s ‘BMF’ champion and one of the top contenders in the division, Jorge Masvidal.
ESPN’s Ariel Helwani was first to report that Masvidal would step in to replace Burns after many levels of negotiations to work through, although one final hurdle still remains. Preparing to make the trip to Abu Dhabi, Jorge Masvidal flew to Las Vegas on Sunday and will have to pass three COVID-19 tests before the fight is officially on, as Helwani explained on ‘SportsCenter’ late Saturday night.
SportsCenter report on the latest regarding Usman vs. Masvidal pic.twitter.com/gJUscZ5v7V
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) July 5, 2020
The story of Masvidal stepping in has been very fluid since Friday night when Burns tested positive for COVID-19, as the Masvidal-Usman matchup was one many expected to take place after Usman defeated Colby Covington in his first title defense at UFC 245 in December. The two fighters had to be separated an event in January down in Florida, which is where the rivalry between them really picked up the hype and attention.
A welterweight title fight for Masvidal is certainly deserved after he took time off in his career and has returned to the Octagon with wins over Darren Till, Ben Askren, and most recently Nate Diaz last November.
Now that Masvidal has stepped in, on paper, there will be three title fights at next weekend’s UFC 251 and a full main card for the event which is as follows:
- Paige VanZant vs Amanda Ribas (flyweight)
- Jessica Andrade vs Rose Namajunas (strawweight)
- Petr Yan vs Jose Aldo (vacant bantamweight title fight)
- Alexander Volkanovski vs Max Holloway (featherweight title fight)
- Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal (welterweight title fight)
According to ESPN MMA, if Masvidal does indeed step into the Octagon to fight for the title, no other fighter in UFC history would have had more career fights before their first title fight, which is 48 for the man known as “Gamebred”. UFC President Dana White all but confirmed Masvidal replacing by Burns on Sunday when he tweeted out the first promo video for UFC 251 featuring Usman and Masvidal.
— danawhite (@danawhite) July 5, 2020
The UFC 251 main card will start at 10pm EST and will be available on ESPN+ PPV on Saturday, July 11 live from Abu Dhabi and the UFC’s ‘Fight Island’.