A Resurrection Delayed, But a 'BMF' Well-Paid

By Josh Gross Jul 13, 2020

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They can’t all be walk-offs.

Jorge Masvidal felt the need to apologize after UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman put him through the grinder on Saturday night.

“I just feel like I let a lot of people down, man,” Masvidal said. “It was a sh*tty performance.”

There is no need for him to think that he disappointed anyone, not after 17 years, 48 professional MMA bouts and the frantic circumstances around his 49th, which, let’s just say right now, wasn’t sh*tty.

Compared to Masvidal’s profile-raising 2019, this weekend’s suffocating loss was like the 2020 of fights. It must be awful to be on the other side of Usman but with a better training camp Masvidal said he was convinced he could beat the champ. There were flashes of possibilities on Saturday. He displayed enough of his athleticism, timing and defensive wrestling to make Usman work for everything.

When he could, Masvidal tried to pick his spots and attack while preserving his energy. Repeatedly, though, Usman took Masvidal into his world and locked things down. It was the smart way to fight, so of course that’s what Usman did. The reality of meeting one of the most dominant 170-pound fighters ever to hold a UFC title—on short notice—meant a stymied “BMF.” Other fighters have fared far worse against Usman with much more time to prepare, Masvidal noted.

“I gambled the dice on myself,” Masvidal said. “I knew I didn’t have the greatest gas tank coming in but I’m still a dangerous man six days, one day, six weeks. Hats off to him. We’ll do it again.”

Making the best of a rare moment when a fighter has real leverage and is confident enough to exercise it, Masvidal used Gilbert Burns’ misfortune to open the door to a more lucrative contract and a title shot.

So there wasn’t a baptism. No resurrection, either. What’s done is done. Masvidal cashed in, stepped up, got paid and a week later he can take some good and some bad after a quintessential example of the opportunity economy that the UFC built into its fighter roster over the last 20 years.

With the exception of a big payday, the plan was not fully executed. (That required defeating Usman.) So Masvidal likely has less leverage today than he did when he took the fight, even if his addition to the card proved financially beneficial for the UFC. How much less is to be determined.

When “Gamebred” became the sixth American Top Team fighter to be cast aside by the 33-year-old Nigerian, winning just one of the 15 rounds that were judged on the cards, one of the flashiest and most explosive fighters in the UFC was rendered stuck.

“Everybody can see that I have the dog in me,” he said. “That dog doesn't shut up or roll over for nobody. I was very tired in some spots and I was able to dig down and bring it back to my feet. I’m not happy with my performance or nothing. I’ll be back and stronger.”

Rewarding Masvidal with an immediate rematch would be odd even if Usman welcomes one, which he said he does. Presumably healthy, Burns would be next to challenge for the UFC welterweight title, according to Dana White. Anything seems possible in that match, and other worthy contenders are lined up waiting for a crack. “Gamebred” acknowledged the need to earn his way back to a title shot, which is good news for fight fans.

The contest to make for Masvidal could be against Englishman Leon Edwards. This was the fight to make before Nate Diaz created the “BMF Belt” and invited Masvidal to the party. Now circumstances suggest it could provide the quickest road back to the title, which is what the Cuban-American said he wants most. That works just as well for Edwards, whose unfinished business with Masvidal needs closure.

Talk of a mega match with McGregor has to be tempered now. Plenty of fans will want to see “The Notorious” versus “Gamebred,” but there is surely less intrigue now than there was before Usman did his thing.

Continued interest in Masvidal as a public figure and a big win next time out should right his trajectory, but the nature of the UFC dictates that there’s no guarantee a fighter with 14 losses on his record who could turn 36 before his next appearance in the Octagon would sniff the title again.

That’s life in the high-wire UFC, where talk about opportunities dominates discussion of the opportunity cost.

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