While UFC president Dana White has repeatedly stated that’s the fight he wants to make next, the reigning welterweight king isn’t convinced Masvidal is actually on board.
Ever since the former two-division champion dismantled Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in 40 seconds, Masvidal has claimed that McGregor is avoiding him because he knows that’s a fight he can’t win. After finishing a tirade aimed at McGregor, he then turned his attention to Usman and the welterweight title.
That tactic has Usman convinced Masvidal is trying to goad McGregor into a fight rather than making a definitive statement that he’s gunning for the gold.
“They’re doing everything possible not to fight me,” Usman told Joe Rogan on the JRE podcast. “They’re begging for a Conor fight. They’re begging for that fight. I get it. Let’s be honest. My manager said it, too — “if I was his manager, yes, why would I fight you? I’ve got all this hype right now. I would do everything possible not to fight you. Of course I want to fight Conor.”
“You fight Conor and lose, guess what? I still got the payday. Who cares. A giant payday. Who cares. He fights me, he goes back down to making [$50K] and [$50K] or whatever he was making before. All that hype is done.”
What seems to bother Usman the most is the persona that Masvidal has adapted over the past year after winning three straight fights in the UFC against Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz. He doesn’t discount those victories, but he’s not sold that Masvidal is some unstoppable force of nature based around his recent success.
“I respected Masvidal before, but after years and years of being in the game, you finally start to get a little shine, and this is how you’re going to do it?” Usman said. “Now you’re that gimmicky guy?
“His management team, they’ve done a good job of getting him to this point where he’s got this hype around him now, but that’s what it is. It’s hype.”
For all the talk they’ve exchanged in interviews and over social media, Usman says the first time he’s come face to face with Masvidal in recent months was when both were invited guests to sit cage side for McGregor’s win over Cerrone in Las Vegas.
Usman was ready for a volatile encounter, but then nothing happened.
“I’ve heard him go as far as say he’s going to break my face, he’s going to do all this and do that, but then I see you backstage and nothing was said,” Usman revealed. “Nothing. We sat in the same row at Conor’s fight. Same row. Maybe 10 people apart. Nothing was said.”
“I’m that type of guy if I say I’m going to do something to you when I see you, it’s on sight. I don’t talk the sh*t and this and that, but if I feel a certain way about you, when I see you, I’m gonna confront you about it.”
That’s exactly what happened when the two ran into each other earlier this week at a media day for the 2020 Super Bowl. UFC PR officials intervened to keep the two apart as they jawed at each other from a distance.
Just before that, Masvidal had accused Usman of doing the same thing as Usman has claimed: avoiding a fight and taking the easy road. He promised to “embarrass” the champ when they fought.
Right now, Usman awaits word from the UFC on who he’ll actually fight next. It appears a summer time return is most likely.
As champion, Usman’s days of chasing fights is finished, so he’ll sign to face anyone the UFC puts in front of him — he’s just waiting to find out if Masvidal is willing to do the same.
“We both know what’s going to happen,” Usman said. “Him and I both know. His management team knows. Everybody knows what’s truly going to happen. But that’s the nature of the game.
“He’s got his fans who really believe that he can beat anybody in the world. That he can’t be touched. They’re like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the guy that’s going to beat you, he’s going to knock you out, he’s going to do whatever he wants to do to you.’ No, it’s not going to happen. Not even remotely possible for it to happen.”