The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has shaken up the entire world since January and it has not shied away from any prisoners — even the sports world.
However, the UFC has been coming up with ideas left and right on how to continue to keep fight cards going. One of them being Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, AE.
Deemed the UFC’s ‘safe zone,’ Fight Island came together after president Dana White decided he needed a location for international fighters. A couple of calls later and Yas Island is secured for multiple fights throughout the next two months.
The first one being UFC 251, which takes place on July 11.
The card might be the most jam-packed, take-down, and rear-naked chokehold filled card in UFC history. Three championship fights that will keep fans on the edge of their seats and make them grimace with piercing right hooks or sharp leg kicks.
The anticipation and excitement were through the roof but was briefly halted when Gilbert Burns tested positive for the virus. White quickly scrambled around to find a replacement fighter in one of the deepest divisions in the world right now.
Should White bring on Colby Covington for another slobber knocker? The heavy-hitter Leon Edwards? The former five-time champion Tyron Woodley? Or…
How about the BMF champion Jorge Masvidal, who had been in a contract dispute with White and the UFC for months? The high powered and tough fighter from Miami, FL is known for his hard-nosed stand-up game and willingness to square up anytime and anywhere. The hype surrounding Masvidal has resulted in him being a fan favorite and has only been building since last year as a fight for the welterweight championship belt is the ultimate climax of an exciting rise.
Masvidal had been in contract discussions since the beginning of the year, leading to many fans wondering if he would ever fight again. Last month, he tweeted if the UFC did not think he was worth the raise, the promotion should release him. Since then, Masvidal has signed a new multi-fight deal and is currently ‘happy’ with it.
“I’m happy more than anything because I get to break this guy’s face and get paid for it,” Masvidal said about his new deal that is headed in the right direction.
The 35-year-old, however, has been a journeyman in mixed martial arts. If Masvidal wins now, he will set a record for the most bouts (48) before winning the belt.
First fighting two decades ago, joining the UFC seven years ago, then rising in popularity after knocking out Ben Askren in five seconds, and winning the 2019 Fighter of the Year award, Masvidal has been destined for a championship bout.
Kamaru Usman and Masvidal have a history of trash talk between each other. Both fighters have called each other out on numerous occasions leading up to the fight.
Usman told TMZ back in March: “He seriously thinks he’s a superstar. He’s talking about how I’m the most famous fighter, I’m more famous than Conor [McGregor] and this and that. You are drinking your own Kool-Aid right now. He forgets that literally less than a year ago or two years ago, he was just ‘Journeyman George.'”
Masvidal responded by claiming Usman has multiple personalities. Both fighters also had a heated exchange during Super Bowl LIV weekend where Usman demanded Masvidal ‘do something’ in which the latter responded by saying he would ‘[expletive]’ him up, resulting in more hype and anticipation for this fight.
Five months later and fans are finally seeing it come to life.
No one would ever think it needed Burns’ positive test and Fight Island in Abu Dhabi for Usman vs. Masvidal to finally come true. On less than a week’s notice, Masvidal accepted a fight every mixed martial arts fan has been waiting for.
A matchup between the powerful wrestler Usman and dynamic striker Masvidal is perfect for the UFC. They have been struggling to find exciting headliners since the pandemic began and these two are destined to set off fireworks on Yas Island.
The main event will bring hope back to the fans and will result in spectacular pay-per-view buys for the promotion. It is a win-win for everyone involved now.
Usman vs. Masvidal is exactly what the UFC and fans needed in this pandemic.