Bad Man Walking

Those of us who have been long-time observers of mixed martial arts are well aware that Jorge Masvidal is the true embodiment of his ‘Baddest Motherf**ker in the Game’ moniker.

Stepping up to challenge the imperious and ever-improving Kamaru Usman for the undisputed welterweight title on six days’ notice has merely reiterated that fact.

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 48 hours, Masvidal – who had been at loggerheads with the UFC for the last month – will bid to end Usman’s tenure as 170lb champion early on Sunday morning in the main event of UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi.

Their grudge match, of course, was initially slated to headline the UFC’s International Fight Week card but fell through due to a contractual impasse, which briefly saw the in-form Gilbert Burns assigned with the task of facing Usman.

Eager to put on the biggest card possible during this financially testing time, the UFC brass appears to have given in to or, at the very least, come close to meeting Masvidal’s demands.

The narrative surrounding Masvidal during his rift with his employers was laughable, to say the least. The 17-year veteran was accused of being “scared” of Usman and branded a “coward” by a plethora of his detractors.

Some even went as far as to say he’d refuse to dance with ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ even if his demands were met. Those critics, many of whom have already performed sharp U-turns, have well and truly been left with egg on their face.

In taking the biggest fight of his storied career on six days’ notice, Masvidal has proven he’s more than deserving of the BMF title he claimed at Madison Square Garden last November with a flawless victory over Nate Diaz.

And he’s well and truly shown he’s all about that “anytime, anywhere, any place” life. Many fighters claim to be “about that life” but come up with excuses when the chips are down and the time to put pen to paper comes.

Yes, Masvidal may have been training just in case Usman or Burns were unable to make it to Abu Dhabi. 
But no one, not even the man himself, could’ve envisaged the unfortunate turn of events for Burns, whose dream of winning UFC gold has been delayed by COVID-19.

The initial notion of Masvidal – who rose to prominence as a teenager locking horns with combatants who dwarfed him in stature and strength in bare-knuckle brawls in Miami – being afraid to take a fight against a divisional rival was nothing short of poppycock.

‘Gamebred’ merely wanted his dues. And judging by his bumper new deal, he appears to have been given them. It’s worth reminding combat sports fans that title shots and pay rises seldom come on fighters’ own terms. And if they do, they come after a long and drawn-out game of chicken.

That game is currently being played light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who, like Masvidal, is publicly campaigning for himself and his colleagues to be better compensated for their efforts inside the Octagon.

One can only hope Masvidal will continue to be a vocal campaigner for better fighter pay and that he doesn’t fade into the background now he’s secured the bag. 

The entire UFC roster needs the promotion’s big names to continue to use their positions to advocate for better pay. That’s the only way true change will ever come about.

If he were to continue to be a vocal critic of athlete pay, which Dana White & Co. will be hoping won’t be the case, he would’ve well and truly finessed the UFC. After all,  finessing your bosses after convincing them to give you a pay rise is something only a ‘BMF’ could do.

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