Those Jorge Masvidal fans who are concerned about the short-notice nature of this weekend’s fight can rest a little easier.
On Saturday, Masvidal will challenge Kamaru Usman for the welterweight title at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi. It wasn’t always supposed to be that way, though. For months, everyone believed Usman and Masvidal would fight; however contract negotiations stalled the process before eventually falling through completely. Instead, the UFC scheduled Usman against Gilbert Burns, leaving Masvidal on the sidelines.
But then Burns tested positive for COVID-19 last week and was forced off the card. When that happened, the UFC turned to Masvidal to step in on short notice and now, instead of having months to prepare, Masvidal has only had six days. Or so it would seem.
Speaking with THE FIGHT with Teddy Atlas podcast, UFC lightweight contender and Masvidal’s American Top Team teammate Dustin Poirier revealed that despite the contract negotiation snafu, Masvidal has been steadily preparing to face Usman this entire time, and that he played a pivotal role in Poirier’s own preparation for his fight with Dan Hooker two weeks ago.
“It’s a short-notice (fight) because he didn’t have the contract signed, but let me tell you what, this guy was there my whole training camp, he was my main sparring partner,” Poirier said. “We probably put in five weeks of sparring together. He flew in wrestlers, the best wrestlers in the world. I think he put them up and the guys were there just for Jorge, just for Masvidal to use. The guy never stopped training. Even when the fight fell through and they gave it to Burns, I think it was at the end of my training camp, Jorge was still in the gym every day like he had a fight.”
That is good news for Masvidal fans, as “Gamebred” is already facing an uphill battle even without the short notice. Oddsmakers currently have Usman installed as a heavy favorite over Masvidal, and that’s without taking into consideration that his head coach will no longer be able to corner him. But Poirier believes the BMF champion is going to surprise a lot of people on Saturday.
“I don’t know if he knew something that we didn’t, but the guy was in training camp the whole time and never stopped,” Poirier said. “I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people with the kind of shape he’s in. His timing is gonna be good (because) he was in my camp the whole time, helping a few guys, not just me. He’s in fight shape, I know that much. This isn’t a guy coming off the couch. This is a guy who was preparing to fight Usman and the fight fell through and he kept training.
“Like I said, I don’t know if he just had a premonition, had a feeling, but he was in the gym nonstop, so I’m excited for him. He’s a good guy and a pioneer of mixed martial arts so it’s great to see him get these opportunities.”
Masvidal is 35-13 in his MMA career and holds the UFC record for fastest stoppage, a five-second KO of Ben Askren.