There was understandable disappointment and worry when it was announced that Gilbert Burns had tested positive for COVID-19 late last week, forcing him from his UFC welterweight championship bout with Kamaru Usman at UFC 251.
Would further fights fall out? Is Kamaru Usman going to compete at all? Who is going to feature in the main event of the first “Fight Island” event?
In an unexpected twist, ESPN first reported how Jorge Masvidal was coming to the rescue.
Masvidal was a breakout star in 2019, enjoying the finest year of his 17 in the sport having defeated big names in Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz in brutal fashion. The latter contest saw Masvidal win the one-off “BMF” title.
However, he had recently become embroiled with bitter – and public – negotiation spats with the UFC and hinted that he wouldn’t return to the sport until his demands were met.
Burns got his title shot due to Masvidal refusing to fight UFC welterweight champion Usman on his current UFC deal. Now that Burns is out, Masvidal appears to got what he was asking for.
— UFC (@ufc) July 6, 2020
There were some hurdles, though. News had broke that the UFC were trying to get the fight booked for 11 July, but no contest would happen if Masvidal or any of his training circle were to test positive for the coronavirus.
In the early hours of this morning, the news we were all hoping for came through – just as Masvidal did for the UFC and fans of the sport.
“Gamebred” will be bringing his Cuban flair to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island, stepping in for the biggest fight of his career on just 6 days notice.
Usman, of course, also deserves plenty of praise for being willing to accept a different opponent with just days to go before his second title defence.
Both Masvidal and Usman now have cause to claim to be the “BMF”.
Next up, both competitors will have to test for COVID-19 again upon their arrival in the United Arab Emirates, where they will self-isolate for a further 48 hours.
If the pair and their respective camps test negative, then it’s all systems go.
UFC 251 takes place on Yas Isalnd, Abu Dhabi next weekend.
It’s set to feature three UFC championship fights: Usman vs. Masvidal, Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway in a rematch for the UFC featherweight belt, and Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo for the vacant bantamweight title.