Even if Jorge Masvidal had beaten Gilbert Burns, he would have retired at UFC 287.
“I still would have been like, ‘Thank you everybody for the victory. But this is not like me at my best,’” Masvidal said Monday on The MMA Hour.
This past Saturday’s pay-per-view event was the final confirmation Masvidal said he needed to make an “accurate decision” to hang up his gloves. With a professional MMA career that spanned 20 years, 52 fights and two UFC title shots, he knew he was closer to the end of his career than the beginning. But he wanted to see if the changes he’d felt over time were the result of training camps where he wasn’t fully healthy.
“Well, guess what? I got to the fight camp with virtually no injury,” he said. “It was like literally one of my best fighting camps that I had. So training wise, it wasn’t like I had an excuse like, my ankle was messed up, so I couldn’t get in my road work that I usually do. No, it was like a perfect one. So there was no excuse there.”
Fighting the Burns was the biggest test, of course. If Masvidal could beat his younger opponent, he might have a chance at settling a long-simmering rivalry with champ Leon Edwards after their infamous 2019 run-in in London. But as the fight played out, Masvidal didn’t perform as he’d hoped.
“There was times I felt like I could have done way more when I did hurt Gilbert, and I did catch him, and just that spark, that boom–boom-boom, that next level, that next shift in gear wasn’t there.
“And I could be a sore loser like that, because it’s been 20 years. Sounds like I’m a sore loser, right? But it’s been 20 years, and I don’t feel like it. ... I saw these three punches, and like nothing happened. Now, it’s like I’m thinking way too much. When I fire back, they’re not there no more.”
Watching the fight afterward, Masvidal still picked out things he did well. Unfortunately, he knew they weren’t enough to carry him against the best welterweights in the world.
“I’ve always been somebody that’s had like great defense and stuff, and I’ve been seeing that come down a little more and more,” he said. “And then I started thinking about it like, man, I’ve been taking blows and dodging blows since I was a kid, you know. So it’s only a matter of time that everybody could ride that roller coaster that they love the most until they, for some reason, can’t ride it no more. It’s been my favorite activity to do.
“I’m still gonna always to practice martial arts, because I feel it’s just good for me to have that release, but to compete at the level that I signed up for since a kid, I’m not there no more. And why why even push that anymore. There’s many guys that I could still beat on the roster, but I didn’t sign up to just do this [to] get money for it. I signed up to fight the best of the best in the world, and I feel like I’m not there anymore. I’ve lost that step. So it’s time to pass on the torch.”
Masvidal now plans to shift his attention to promoting MMA. Early this month, he oversaw a stacked Gamebred Boxing card that featured several former UFC and boxing champs including Roy Jones Jr., Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis. He also promotes bare-knuckle MMA in his native Florida and is involved in other business ventures.
Looking at where he started, as a brawler on the streets of Miami, Masvidal can’t help but feel grateful.
“I wish I could have gone out on a W, on a couple of scraps, but f***,” he said. “It was rough, man. It’s the fight game. I still love it. I’m not bitter about it, because it’s the fight game. This is what I signed up for, to kill or be killed. And this is why I love this game. And I’m always gonna be behind this game promoting the next future stars of the sport. It’s gonna be a fun roller coaster as a promoter.”