According to sources speaking to MMA Fighting on Saturday, talks are underway to potentially book the matchup for UFC 251 after Gilbert Burns was ruled out of the main event after he tested positive for COVID-19. Burns was originally supposed to fly to Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, but he didn’t board his flight after the test results were returned.
While it appears Burns dropping off the card essentially removed Usman as well, the promotion is apparently making an attempt to save the main event with talks under way to secure Masvidal as an opponent. ESPN initially reported negotiations underway.
Prior to Burns getting the title fight, Masvidal was already the frontrunner to compete for welterweight gold but contract negotiations fell apart. Masvidal later complained that the UFC was offering him less money to face Usman than he earned for his last fight against Nate Diaz in Nov. 2019.
Eventually when the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement, Masvidal was removed from the title fight and Burns was offered the opportunity after he dominated former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley in May.
Unfortunately, Burns tested positive for the coronavirus, which meant he would not be allowed to fight on July 11.
While it’s impossible to say if the UFC and Masvidal can come to terms in time, the UFC is scrambling to save the main event. Usman also teased the possibility on Twitter earlier in the day on Saturday but again at this time no deal has been struck or contracts signed.
Might be time for the Pig to squeal— KAMARU USMAN (@USMAN84kg) July 4, 2020
Still, Masvidal’s team engaging in talks with the UFC is a positive sign that at least discussions are ongoing to potentially book the fight with Usman on July 11.
Earlier on Saturday, Masvidal’s manager Malki Kawa posted a video on Instagram showing the “BMF” champion taking a COVID-19 anti-body test. Masvidal would also be required to undergo the full COVID-19 testing requirements before he could actually sign to fight Usman at UFC 251.
Regardless of this fight being made or not, UFC 251 has two more title fights already booked with Alexander Volkanovski defending his featherweight title against Max Holloway and Petr Yan battling Jose Aldo to crown a new bantamweight champion. All four of those fighters already passed their COVID-19 testing requirements before taking a chartered flight to Abu Dhabi on Friday.