Voting is now open for the 12th annual World MMA Awards. Head here to vote for your favourite fighters and MMA personalities.
Fighters Only has extended the nomination period from 12 months to 18 months (1st January 2019 – 30th June 2020) to best account for all global MMA action and performances.
The star-studded, black-tie 2020 World MMA Awards event will be held in October 2020 on a date and location to be announced.
In the lead-up to the big show, we are profiling each of the 12th annual World MMA Awards nominees.
Jorge Masvidal is nominated as the Charles ‘Mask’ Lewis Fighter of the Year and Breakthrough Fighter of the Year in the 12th annual World MMA Awards.
2019 was the year Jorge Masvidal went from a well-liked and respected street fighter-turned martial artist to a true worldwide star in combat sports.
It was a breakout year which was earned, forged and realised after 16 years of hard graft and, at the time of writing, his successful 2019 has earned him his first UFC title shot as he challenges Kamaru Usman for his UFC welterweight championship at UFC 251 on Fight Island.
Masvidal enjoyed mixed fortunes in 2017. The proud Miami native started the year with a comprehensive knockout win over Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone before dropping two disappointing decision losses to Demian Maia and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson.
Those defeats were enough for Masvidal to take a step back from the sport and regroup his efforts. In 2018, Gamebred didn’t compete in the cage at all, choosing a period of introspection – with some reality TV mixed in – rather than competing in the cage for the sake of it.
Masvidal said he only wanted to fight opponents from the top 10 going forward and that approach paid dividends a year later.
The Cuban American kicked off his 2019 run by taking on Darren Till on enemy territory in London, England.
Liverpool’s Till was on the comeback trail after losing his shot at the UFC welterweight championship against Tyron Woodley. According to Till, there were few people willing to fight him in the United Kingdom. Up stepped Jorge Masvidal.
Things didn’t start so well for Masvidal at UFC London.
Gamebred was left on the floor in just 10 seconds of their bout as Till planted him with a power left straight. Perhaps it was a pinch of ring rust. Maybe it was just a case of getting caught out by Till’s impressive power at welterweight.
But Masvidal quickly recovered and eased into the fight’s rhythm by the time the horn sounded to signal the end of round one.
The second round was a different story. Masvidal’s punches started to find their intended target with regularity as his speed got beyond Till’s reflex-based defences. He was also effective in throwing kicks, and when Till would respond with a similar attack, Masvidal was ready to counter with a boxing combination.
Then came the finish. Masvidal switched stance to southpaw and fainted with a jab to follow up with a devastating left overhand to send Till crashing to canvas for the knockout win – handing Till the second loss of his promising MMA career.
While things got off to a rocky start in the UK’s capital city, Masvidal’s stock sky rocketed. In addition to knocking out a number three-ranked welterweight, he also got into an altercation with another Brit in Leon Edwards while giving a post-fight interview.
After a brief backstage skirmish, Masvidal said he gave Edwards a “3 piece with the soda.” A quote which absolutely blew up on social media and exposed Gamebred to an audience beyond combat sports.
Rightly or wrongly, that incident arguably did more to raise Masvidal’s profile than the official win he scored over Till in the cage earlier that night.
In the above interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Masvidal called for a crack at Kamaru Usman’s welterweight championship.
That opportunity didn’t come. Instead, number-four ranked Masvidal faced another man in the title hunt in Ben Askren four months after his Till victory.
“Funky” had just defeated ex-UFC champion Robbie Lawler on his long-awaited UFC debut and was seeking to add UFC gold to the belts he earned at rival promotions Bellator and ONE Championship.
Askren was the perfect foil for a man like Masvidal. The Olympian was behind a lot of the pre-fight build, hyping the fight by disparaging Masvidal and a number of their welterweight contemporaries. Masvidal, meanwhile, largely remained quiet, though he was vocal in his dislike of Askren in multiple interviews ahead of their bout.
Due to the pair’s clear disdain for one another, there was arguably more anticipation for this fight at UFC 239 than there was for the two championship bouts which headlined the card.
Their contest was over before it began.
Cool, calm and collected, Masvidal exploded into a flying knee just seconds into the fight and caught Askren as he dived for a takedown. That knee landed flush, instantly separating Askren from his consciousness after just five seconds – the fastest knockout in UFC history.
As spectacular a win it was, Masvidal again backed up his performance with memorable post-fight antics and interviews to add to the allure building around his name like he did in London back in March.
If Masvidal wasn’t talking about “baptising” his opponents, he was saying his follow-up punches to an already-knocked out Askren were “super necessary” – more quotes which caught fire in the age of social media.
Gamebred had never been so in demand and received a call out from an unlikely source a month later.
After defeating Anthony Pettis at UFC 241 in his comeback fight, a usually-combative Nate Diaz respectfully called out Masvidal in his post-fight interview.
“The reason I was off is cause everybody sucked and there was nobody to fight,” Diaz said. “With this belt, I want to defend it against Jorge Masvidal, he had a good last fight.
“All respect to the man but there ain’t no gangsters in his game anymore. I know my man’s a gangster but he ain’t no west coast gangster.”
The belt Diaz alluded to was for being the self-anointed “Baddest Motherf**cker” (BMF) in all of MMA.
Fans, journalists – even UFC President Dana White – all seemed to salivate at the idea of a Masvidal – Diaz fight. White’s support of that matchup soon came to fruition.
The fight was booked. That fictitious BMF title Diaz talked about became reality and would be put on the line in this one-off championship contest. In November, Masvidal rounded off his 2019 with a fight for the BMF title against Diaz.
The fight was as much fun as everyone rightfully thought it would be.
Proceedings got off to a surreal start as referee Dan Miragliotta went through the rules one last time with the competitors before the fight’s start.
“Alright gentlemen,” Miragliotta began. “We’ve been through the rules in the locker room: I want you to obey my commands at all times and protect yourself at all times. This is a five-round fight to determine who’s the baddest motherf’er here.”
Gamebred found success early on in the contest, knocking Diaz down with a nasty elbow which also opened him up with a cut in the first round. Diaz, as ever, was tough as nails and recovered well enough to get back to his feet and land some punches of his own as the horn sounded.
Diaz continued his momentum early in the second stanza and accurately landed those half-power punches made famous by him and his brother Nick. That was until he was met by a crushing Masvidal right hand to knock Diaz down for a second time.
Momentum had swung back in the Floridian’s favour and he let Diaz back up to land more strikes and convincingly win the rest of the second round in front of a raucous Madison Square Garden crowd.
Masvidal continued to land at will in the third round, coming off better in each striking exchange as he targeted Diaz’s body with gruesome hooks and kicks. Gamebred was too quick and too powerful for Stockton, California’s Diaz as he damaged his foe with impressive efficiency.
Three rounds down, Diaz’s hopes of staging a dramatic comeback in this BMF title fight were extinguished before he could commence battle with Masvidal in the fourth.
The cageside doctor inspected Diaz’s worsening cuts above and below his right eye and deemed it necessary to call the fight off – much to the chagrin of both Diaz and Masvidal. It wasn’t the way Gamebred wanted to fight to end, but it was his handywork which caused the stoppage.
Either way, Masvidal walked away with the BMF title put around his waist by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to cap off a spectacular 2019. A year which propelled him to become one of the most talked-about names in all of combat sports.
2019 saw Masvidal captivate audiences with his performances inside the cage and entertain the world with his personality outside of it.
With three stoppage wins over big names, Masvidal went from being a respected name in MMA to a must-watch fighter. That’s why the Cuban-American is a leading candidate for Fighter of the Year in the 12th annual World MMA Awards.
Is Jorge Masvidal your Fighter of the Year?
Voting is now open for the 12th annual World MMA Awards.
Head here to vote for your favourite fighters and MMA personalities.