UFC 261 is just over two weeks away, yet the fact Jorge Masvidal knows he’ll be in the main event on April 24 against welterweight champ Kamaru Usman puts Masvidal in a better place than he was the last time they fought.
Masvidal was a late replacement to challenge Usman at UFC 251 on Fight Island after Gilbert Burns had to drop out of the bout because he tested positive for COVID-19. Masvidal had just six days to prepare, and had a long flight to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He also needed to lose approximately 20 pounds to make the welterweight limit of 170 pounds, which in itself proved to be quite a battle.
Once he cleared all of those hurdles, Masvidal lasted five rounds with Usman, although he lost every round on two scorecards and won just one round on the third.
“[The weight cut] wasn’t fun,” Masvidal, 36, told ESPN on Monday. “It was a lot of weight.
“I was 35 at the time. As you get older, the weight [cut] just sucks, you know? The last three pounds took longer than the first 17. Just trying to get those last three pounds out was a headache and a half. I don’t have to do that now for this fight. As I stand right now, I’m nine pounds away from the weight class, just ready to rock and roll.”
Masvidal said he was determined not to let missing weight spoil his first shot at UFC gold.
“When I got to 18 pounds [off], I started like, ‘Wow, this hurts,’ but all I kept thinking is, ‘It’ll mean nothing if I go out there and knock this guy out, so I’m going to make the weight like a man,’ because I’ve never missed weight,” he said. “I signed that dotted line. Let’s compete. I’m going to make this weight. If not, then I shouldn’t have taken the fight. That would have been the coward’s way out. I made sure I made the weight and then gave it my best.”
In the Octagon after the decision was announced, the two talked about running it back. That became more likely on Feb. 13, when Usman beat Burns and then called out Masvidal for a rematch.
“Looking at all the contenders, there was one I still had a bad taste in my mouth from,” Usman told ESPN. “And it wasn’t from what people said or what people thought, it was because of what I thought and what I felt after the fight. I was still able to get the win, but not in the way that I wanted. He had a built-in excuse, to where I kind of had to rectify that one.”
Usman said his goal for the rematch is simple.
“I don’t think I broke him in the way I wanted to break him,” Usman said. “And so that’s really what I’m after.”
Usman is a heavy favorite at -380, according to Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.
Masvidal was not impressed by Usman’s third-round stoppage of Burns on Feb. 13. While Usman said he’s getting better, Masvidal believes he’s the same fighter he faced last year.
“I just know that he knows that I’m going to have gas for five rounds, and he’s going to have to put up with that f—ing insane pace of me trying to just end him from start to finish,” Masvidal said.