Jorge Masvidal believes Kamaru Usman may have rushed back to action too soon following his knockout loss to Leon Edwards at UFC 278.
Last August, Usman’s dominant welterweight title reign came to an abrupt end when Edwards scored one of the most incredible comebacks in UFC history, knocking Usman out with a last-minute head kick to claim the 170-pound title. The two ran things back this past Saturday at UFC 286, with Usman again coming up short, this time by majority decision in a bout where he struggled to consistently impose offense against Edwards.
Usman’s one-time rival, Masvidal, believes that the short six-month turnaround may have played a role in Usman’s loss.
“A little lackluster,” Masvidal said on The Joe Rogan Experience when asked what he thought about the UFC 286 main event. “Usman, maybe there were times I didn’t see him stepping on the gas like he usually does, and it might have been he took this fight too early. I always think when a fighter gets knocked out — I got this from the old timers in boxing — you really need to let your brain and your confidence heal and come back. Because then you get back in there and you get touched and you’re like, ‘Whoa, I might get knocked out,’ and you pull the brakes and you start maybe second-guessing yourself.
“So I think maybe he took it a little bit too early. I do think he’s in a way a better fighter than Leon in a lot of aspects, but it just seems that Leon has his number right now.”
“Gamebred” knows what he’s talking about. Masvidal twice challenged Usman for the welterweight title, losing a wide unanimous decision the first time around and then getting knocked out cold by Usman in the rematch. Masvidal did not fight for almost a full year following that 2021 Knockout of the Year loss, in large part because he and his coaches wanted to make sure he was fully ready to return.
“Close to like eight or nine months,” Masvidal said of his layoff following the knockout loss. “Maybe even longer. All my coaches wanted me [to], plus it was the first KO of my career. My body was already healed, my brain, but they wanted to make sure my mind was right.”
Though he says he’s mentally and physically past the in-cage problems such a knockout can cause, Masvidal says he still hasn’t quite made peace with what happened.
“I still haven’t got over it, brother,” Masvidal said. “I want to f****** rip Usman’s brains out. Nothing personal, I just want to get back in there and do it to him. I’ve never been knocked out and I’ve fought a lot — we were talking earlier, Yves Edwards, I’ve fought great strikers and they never even came close to knocking me out. It’s not to diss Usman but I don’t put him in the league of some of these great strikers.
“He’s a great fighter because he can do a lot of things well, but after fighting him the first time and getting his best shots, and I cut 20 pounds of water on six days’ notice, and I went to Abu Dhabi, I was like, this guy will never hurt me, he hits like a b****. And I had five rounds with him. So in that nine months since the first fight, that he gained that type of power was just nuts to me. It was unreal, unnatural. Because I felt his f****** best punches in the first fight for five rounds and it never hurt me, never shook me up good. Then, boom, surprised hit in the second fight.”
For now, Masvidal has more pressing issues to concern himself with.
Masvidal is schedule to face Gilbert Burns in the co-main event of UFC 287, and though UFC President Dana White stated that former interim champion Colby Covington is getting the next crack at Leon Edwards’ welterweight title, regardless of what happens, Masvidal says don’t count him out just yet.
“Skip Colby, for sure,” Masvidal said. “Leon wants it more than anything. He wants it more than anything just for the history that we have, and also, we’re going to sell the most pay-per-views if me and him are in that cage.”
UFC 287 takes place April 8 at Miami-Dade Arena in Miami.