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Jorge Masvidal: Win over ‘Wonderboy’ at UFC 217 earns me a title shot

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Were it not for a narrow split decision loss to Demian Maia in May, MMA veteran Jorge Masvidal might already have fought for a UFC title. As it stands, he doesn’t see himself as being too far from the front of the contenders’ line.

Masvidal fights Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson at UFC 217 and if he can get past the elusive striker who has twice competed for the welterweight belt, he believes he should be next to challenge current champion Tyron Woodley.

“For the title, duh,” Masvidal said on The MMA Hour on Monday when asked what a win over Thompson sets him up for. “Where do you think it puts me?”

Since making the move up to 170 pounds in July 2015, Masvidal has gone 4-3, though that modest record doesn’t tell the whole story. All three of those losses have been split calls, while his most recent win was a highlight-reel TKO of Donald Cerrone. Overall, Masvidal has 32 wins as a pro and a convincing performance at Madison Square Garden this Saturday could propel “Gamebred” to a long-awaited crack at a UFC title.

One factor standing in Masvidal’s way is the plethora of talent vying for pole position. This coming December, former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler meets former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos in an encounter that UFC president Dana White has dubbed a No. 1 contender’s bout, and talents like Darren Till, Mike Perry, Kamaru Usman, and Santiago Ponzinibbio have all shown that they have the potential to someday put gold around their waists.

Having competed professionally since 2003, Masvidal isn’t exactly eager to play gatekeeper to just any hungry up-and-comer that the matchmakers put in his path.

“I’m not seeing any of those dudes, I’m only seeing the title,” Masvidal said. “Those dudes, they could be good in the future, but I’m not looking at those guys. I was in their shoes 10 years ago, I’ve been fighting for a long time, I’ve got 42 fights.

“You’re bringing up dudes that are just starting off in their careers. Do they talk a lot and get on social media? I’m sure. But I’m not going to just fight guys because they’re out there on social media. I’m going to fight the best guys in the world. Now Robbie and dos Anjos, that’s a different story. Two world champions.”

Even if Masvidal defeats Thompson, he could find himself the odd man out at 170 given that either Lawler or dos Anjos are expected to get the next title shot, and that the streaking Colby Covington may have talked his way into a meeting with Woodley. “Gamebred” sees himself as having options regardless of what happens, including a possible return to the lightweight division where he’s interested in throwing down with interim titleholder Tony Ferguson or undisputed champion Conor McGregor.

“There’s lot of things I could do, you know,” Masvidal said. “I could drop to ‘55, whup on Tony Ferguson. If Conor ever decides to defend the belt, he can catch that ass whipping too. But it just has to be for the right money. I’m not going to kill my body, my lifestyle just to go to ‘55.”