Masvidal dropped a split decision to Maia at UFC 211, losing a back-and-forth contest that was being touted as a No. 1 contender fight for the welterweight strap. The defeat was Masvidal’s fourth of the split decision variety in the UFC — all four of which have come within the past 25 months — and snapped a three-fight win streak that had propelled Masvidal into the top-tier of the 170-pound division.
But while Masvidal emerged from UFC 211 with his stock largely intact due to the close nature of the fight, “Gamebred” took no moral victories from a defeat that he counts among the worst of his 15-year MMA career.
“A loss is a loss, but that loss is a weird one, because it hurts me,” Masvidal said Monday on The MMA Hour. “It bothers me. None of these other split losses — obviously they bother me because of paychecks, [but] I’m the type of guy that if I get held down for 10 seconds in practice, I f*cking go crazy. Later on, I’m thinking about it still. I still have to deal with that, that this guy was able to do it for a lot longer than 10 seconds in a fight. I’ve got to fix those holes and stuff.
“So it bothers me on personal level. I know on the business side, a lot of people have told me the same thing you told me (that it doesn’t hurt my stock), but to me, on a personal level, this is the loss that’s bothered me the most, in possibly my whole career.”
Masvidal had success besting Maia in the stand-up game at UFC 211, but it was a different story once things hit the ground, as Maia repeatedly found his way to Masvidal’s back and reminded the MMA world once again why he is regarded as one of the best grapplers to ever compete in the sport.
In total, according to FightMetric statistics, Maia landed four takedowns and compiled over eight minutes of control time over the course of the 15-minute fight — and for Masvidal, that was a far worse way to lose than his prior scorecard controversies against Al Iaquinta, Benson Henderson, and Lorenz Larkin.
“I was frustrated in those fights, but for different reasons,” Masvidal said. “I was just like, ‘f*ck, these judges, I don’t understand.’ This one, it was like more on a personal level, like, ‘man, f*ck, I’ve never gotten held down in my entire career, and now it happens?’ So it bothers me on a whole other new level.”
That being said, Masvidal was also complimentary towards Maia in defeat.
Masvidal admitted that the 39-year-old Brazilian — who’s now won seven straight fights and is expected to serve as the next challenger for UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley — was much more skilled than even he anticipated.
“The strength level surprised me,” Masvidal said. “He’s strong, definitely the strongest guy I’ve been in the cage with, and his half guard is really a class like I’ve never seen. I’ve rolled with multiple Mundial champions and ADCC champions, and his half guard is unique. Like, when you’re in his half guard, you feel threatened the whole time like you don’t ever feel threatened with many people in grappling. And that’s not just MMA; I’m talking about straight grapplers, good guys on the ground who come from that same background that I roll with on the regular.
“This is unique. Very, very tailored to MMA, being active, aggressively sweeping. So it was a treat. I actually learned a couple things from it that I could use myself.”
Masvidal acknowledged he’s heard from plenty of people since UFC 211 who have argued that he should’ve won the fight. He said he even heard via a friend that UFC president Dana White echoed those sentiments. But nonetheless, Masvidal said he sees exactly where judges Jeff Mullen and Sal D’Amato were coming from when they awarded 29-28 scores for Maia.
“If we’re talking about damage, obviously yeah, man, I feel I won the fight. But control is a big part of the game,” Masvidal said. “So the people who tell me, ‘man, you got ripped off, you got robbed,’ this and that — I understand Demian’s side, because you can’t ask that dude to all of a sudden become a striker. He hasn’t been. He’s always been who he is, you know? He can’t just change overnight. So, a big part of the game is control and I didn’t do as well in the control department as I usually do.
“I want to remind people, I asked for this fight,” Maia added. “Because this was the toughest fight, just like ‘Cowboy’ was one of the toughest fights I can make at 170. This was the toughest fight and the fight that I could prove the most in. It didn’t go my way, 100 percent of it, but I can’t wait to do it again. Me and Maia are going to have to do it again. No matter how you see the fight, the fight was a close one. We both had each other in trouble at some times and we’ve got to do it again. It was just small mistakes made on my part. I tweak this, I tweak that in the fight; instead of being a split, it could be unanimous. So I’m eager to improve on those mistakes and get back in there.”
Masvidal reiterated numerous times that he wants to get back into action as soon as possible. He named Stephen Thompson and Neil Magny as potential foes he’d like to face, and he didn’t mince words when asked about the reality that he spent years climbing up the ladder only for his best shot yet at UFC gold to slip through his fingers.
“It burns. It burns like a f*cking STD, man,” Masvidal said.
“Every time I wake up to piss, it burns, bro. And I’m not talking about that STD; I’m talking about real life, because I hate losing.”