“I’m the diamond in the dirt that ain’t been found.
I’m the underground king, and I ain’t been crowned”
That line from the 50 Cent song “Many Men” is the perfect metaphor for the majority of the career of Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal. The 17-year pro has been fighting since well before he ever stepped foot in an octagon, getting his start competing in bare-knuckle brawls throughout the streets of Miami. Once he made it to the UFC in April of 2013, Masvidal spent the next 6 years in the trenches of the companies’ lightweight and welterweight divisions where he squared up with anyone and everyone who was put in front of him. Donald Cerrone, Al Laquinta, Demian Maia, Darren Till, and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson are just a few of the established stars that Masvidal has taken on over the past decade. Fights like these are what established Jorge as a fan-favorite amongst hardcore followers of the sport, but amounted to little mainstream attention.
That all changed last spring after his internet-breaking knockout of Ben Askren. The phrase talking of a star being born overnight has been used ad nauseam, but its hard to argue with how correct the statement was. The five-second flying-knee knockout, the fastest in UFC History, gave Masvidal his first taste of the mainstream spotlight. He turned that flash-KO into a Madison Square Garden main event against one of the biggest stars in the world, Nate Diaz. Not only that, but the fight was gaining so much traction amongst casual audiences that the UFC created a brand new championship strictly for the fight. While the way the fight was stopped may not have been ideal (thanks a lot New York State Athletic Commission), Masvidal looked like an absolute superstar, dominating Diaz in a way rarely seen before.
Following his dominant 2019, a welterweight title fight with Kamaru Usman seemed to be the logical next step, but that isn’t what happened. What ended up taking place was the #1 ranked welterweight contender Gilbert Burns getting the title fight against Usman instead, and Masvidal asking for a release from his UFC contract. Jorge citing a “Disrespectful” contract offer from UFC President Dana White as the catalyst for the proposed release. But after a positive COVID-19 test for Burns, Masvidal found himself not only with a contract he was reportedly “Happy” with but also a date with the Welterweight champion of the world, as he agreed to take Burns spot against Usman on just six days notice. So here we are. Five days from now the appointed “Baddest MFer” in MMA gets his first shot at an official UFC belt.
But Jorge Masvidal is fighting for much more than championship gold on Saturday Night. He has a chance to solidify himself as the UFC’s next mainstream superstar.
There is a fine line between a star in one’s realm and a star that transcends the medium itself. To not just be famous in the world you’re apart of, but to be a household name to fans and non-fans alike. It’s what separates LeBron James from a guy like James Harden, It’s what separates Tiger Woods from a guy like Rory Mcllroy, and it’s what currently separates Conor McGregor from the rest of MMA. UFC 251 is Masvidal’s chance to join that rarefied air. He has the look, swagger, and charisma of a top drawing star, all he needs is one more major win. Not just a 5-second flash KO, or a doctor stoppage win in a non-title fight, but an unimpeachable win over one of the baddest men on the planet. Every eye in the sports world will be on Fight Island this weekend. If he’s able to knock off the Nigerian Nightmare, who’s a perfect 11-0 in the UFC and the #6 ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the world, in the main event of one of the most anticipated cards in the companies history, it may be just what he needs to be looked at in the same vein as a McGregor or a Ronda Rousey. If the final image we see on Saturday is Masivdal standing victorious, with the BMF title on one shoulder and the Welterweight championship of the world on the other, you’ll be looking at combat sports’ next big crossover superstar.
To wrap around to the 50 Cent line from the start of this article, the diamond of Dade County has certainly been found. With a win this weekend, he’ll have his crown. Not just as the new king of the welterweights, but as the new king of the UFC. And then no one, not even Dana White, will be able to deny him any longer.
The main card for UFC 251 starts this Saturday at 9 PM EST live on Pay-Per-View.
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