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Kamaru Usman explains how rivalry with Jorge Masvidal turned personal

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Kamaru Usman never saw Jorge Masvidal as anything more than a professional rival until recent weeks.

To hear the UFC welterweight champion tell it, the exchanges with Masvidal over social media, and even an altercation during Super Bowl media day earlier this year, never really changed his opinion on the highly anticipated title fight.

That all changed when Usman went public with his offer to face Masvidal on short notice after it appeared that UFC 249 needed a new main event. With lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov stranded in Russia, Usman volunteered his services to headline the card, but he says the UFC eventually told him that terms couldn’t be reached with Masvidal.

“I don’t know exactly what was said from their end, but I know when the UFC says something like that, it pretty much means they probably came out and said ‘we want $10 million’ or something crazy like that where you know you’re not going to get [it] but that’s just easier way of turning down the fight than you actually saying ‘no, I don’t want to fight right now,” Usman said when speaking to MMA Fighting.

“I was ready to go. I was training. I got in the gym. Obviously, I wasn’t training as regularly as before that opportunity came about. So after that I started training, I started dieting. That was maybe going to be a 25-pound weight cut for me in two weeks to get down to weight and fight the fight and I was willing to do it to save the event but I guess he wasn’t.”

While Masvidal and his team have said they accepted the fight, the matchup never ended up coming together for a card that was ultimately postponed.

Regardless of what really happened behind the scenes, Usman says the ugly back-and-forth that followed is what really started change his opinion about Masvidal.

“The one thing that’s hard for people to understand right now and people don’t really know is it’s not necessarily Masvidal that’s doing all this, that’s orchestrating all of this and tweeting these tweets and saying the things that he’s saying,” Usman said. “Yes, when he gets in front of an interview camera or something of that nature, yeah, that’s him, which goes hand in hand but the majority of what’s being tweeted and what’s being put in video clips that they’re making, that’s all from his management.

“That’s all from Abe [Kawa] that’s doing all that and I understand it, I get it. It’s marketing for them. They see this as an opportunity to really grow his brand. He’s had 18 years to be in this position and it hasn’t happened. Now they’re seeing this as an opportunity and they’re running with it big time. But really it’s his management that’s causing all this, that’s saying all these things and tweeting all these things.”

Once Usman was convinced that it was Masvidal’s representatives doing the talking for him, that only further exacerbated his frustration with the situation.

“Yeah, it’s getting personal because when you allow your management to tweet certain things for you, to say certain things or certain words to people, you’re condoning that as well,” Usman said. “So yeah, it’s turned into more of a personal situation.”

In the aftermath of the April 18 fight falling apart, Usman, Masvidal and his management team have all gone to social media to respond to what happened as the ongoing war of words continued.

Personal feelings aside, Usman and Masvidal are obviously on a collision course later this year with the welterweight title on the line.

The fight was originally supposed to take place during the UFC’s annual International Fight Week in July, although no contracts were ever issued or signed.

It’s still possible that date happens but Usman is more than happy to settle his grudge with Masvidal even sooner if the UFC wants to book the fight right now.

“I’m ready whenever,” Usman stated. “Like I said, as long as I’m compensated and you can quote me on this — I’m ready to rumble at any moment as long as I’m compensated. I am ready to rumble.

“So May 9 if something falls out, they need me to go, I’m ready to rumble. Just make sure I’m compensated.”

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