Heading into the first week of July it seemed, for all intents and purposes, as though Jorge Masvidal had played a bad hand and come up short. The ‘BMF’ champion had stood firm with the UFC, telling the promotion that he wouldn’t fight for the welterweight belt unless he saw more money in his pocket at the end of the day. And the UFC seemed entirely willing to move on without him, booking streaking Henri Hooft-trained BJJ ace Gilbert Burns to face champion Kamaru Usman in Masvidal’s place.
But for the world’s largest MMA promotion, the best laid plans often go awry. Burns tested positive for COVID-19 just one week out from the UFC 251 fight night, where his bout against Usman had headline billing. And even with two other title fights on the card, the UFC turned back to Masvidal. This time around, with a lot more willingness to negotiate.
“I’m happy, more than anything, because I get to break this guy’s face, and get paid for it,” Masvidal told Ariel Helwani in a recent interview, revealing that it was the UFC that reached out to him after Burns’ removal from the event. “But one thing I’m not gonna do, which I’ve done a long part of my career, is get underpaid. That’s not gonna happen. Not from here going forward.
“Since I came back from [indecipherable] after the Till fight, me and my management sat down. We discussed the numbers where I needed to be at, and we needed to hit those very quick. We’re not there yet, but we’re headed in that direction. So, moving forward after this fight, they’re going to treat me accordingly, or—you know? I just step in last minute, six days ago, and get paid then, I guess. Just do the scheme I have to do, whatever. But, I’m gonna get paid every time out.”
Beyond the feelings of contentment – and determination to continue his newfound reputation as a hardball negotiator – however, Masvidal still had a few words for the UFC’s fighters-turned-commentators—who he feels were less than supportive of his struggle.
“And I wanna thank you Ariel, for not being a company man,” Masvidal continued, unprompted. “For speaking from your heart. For speaking, not from a position of oppression, like a lot of other guys in the UFC. I’m not gonna talk about ‘em, mention ‘em on the show, make them famous. But, you know who these company guys are that, after they’re done fighting, they just work for the UFC. So, they always opinionate toward the UFC.
“Or, guys that used to fight in the UFC? Just, their opinions are always to protect the UFC. And trying to make fighters like me and myself – because I’m not the only one doing this, going through this – [look] like we’re lunatics, we’re crazy, you know? Because I’m not asking for them to pay me something outrageous. No! I’m asking just them to bring me more money of what I do bring in, off the PPV side. And that’s what we’re fighting for. And we came to a pretty good deal, so I’m happy right now.”
Masvidal also clarified just a bit more as to what it was that he got out of his new contract with the UFC. That the main thing he was fighting for wasn’t guaranteed money on the front end, but just a larger cut of PPV profits. And of course, to get that done, he had to sign another long-term deal. “You wanna get paid, you gotta sign a 10-fight contract every time, man,” the ATT fighter told Helwani.
“I’m not talking about the current deal, but the initial deal – with what’s his face’s name [Usman] – was a shit deal on the PPV end and on the guaranteed side. So, again, I have two negatives. I could understand you don’t want to give me that much in guarantee. But on the PPV, what I bring in, what people purchase? I want more money in that. And they weren’t budging on that, and neither was I. So all this craziness had to happen for them to come to their senses.”
UFC 251 takes place this Saturday, July 11th, at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi—and kicks off a month of UFC events at the ‘Fight Island’ venue. Alongside the welterweight title bout between Usman and Masvidal, the card also features a featherweight title rematch between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway, as well as a fight for the vacant bantamweight title between Petr Yan and Jose Aldo. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for more news and updates as fight night approaches.