Jorge Masvidal was expected to fight top-ranked welterweight Kelvin Gastelum in early November at The Ultimate Fighter Latin America 3 Finale. After years of putting in work and clamoring to fight the best, Masvidal was being rewarded with the fifth-ranked welterweight in the world.
"I was ecstatic," Masvidal told Sports Illustrated by phone this week. "I had goosebumps when they told me. It was the luckiest day of my life, that’s what I was thinking. I’m going to open up a Christmas gift in November, that’s what I was thinking."
But plans changed. Robbie Lawler was supposed to fight Donald (Cowboy) Cerrone at UFC 205 in Madison Square Garden, but wasn't determined he wasn't ready after a tough knockout loss to Tyron Woodley at UFC 201 and had to remove himself. Cowboy needed a new opponent, and the answer for the UFC was Gastelum.
Consequently, that left Masvidal without an opponent, putting him in a situation he has been through time and time again. But this time a breaking point has been reached; Masvidal is drawing a hard line in the sand and making it clear what he wants.
"The final say is going to be up to me," Masvidal said. "I’ve been in this sport too long. If they don’t give me someone with a name, I’m not fighting another Ultimate Fighter winner that is undefeated, untested, with no ranking. I’m not going to do that. I did that plenty before I got to the UFC, and my UFC resume speaks for itself. I’ve beaten up everybody’s favorite Ultimate Fighter. I’m not going to do that again."
And if the UFC can't accommodate Masvidal's requests, he is prepared to sit out.
"If it’s not a ranked guy, I probably won’t fight, to tell you the truth. I don’t have it in me to fight another up and coming kid or another Ross Pearson. It’s not where I belong," Masvidal said.
The reasoning is simple for Masvidal. He wants to fight the best in the world and doesn't feel like he has been given the opportunity. While he finds fault at times with the UFC and its booking of him and other fighters in his weight class, the fighters are to blame as well.
"Every single time me and [the UFC] have a conversation, or my management and them have the conversation, it’s the same three sentences. ‘Jorge wants the biggest name possible, the highest ranked guy possible, the toughest guy possible.’ You know what happens? ‘Yeah Jorge, we got it. How does this guy sound?’ I’ll verbally agree, sometimes the dude verbally agrees and then they back out of it. All of a sudden they get hurt or something happens," Masvidal said.
"I’ll just talk about the ones that are on paper, we both signed, social media was already promoting it, the posters were made up. Behind close doors, how many dudes have said no or agreed and got injured a week later? It’s mind blowing, I thought we signed up to fight."
In an effort to take matters into his own hands, Masvidal called out his division on Twitter.
I called out the whole top ten last time. Only 1 accepted and signed. I smell 🐓 💩 in this division. Excuses all around— Jorge Masvidal UFC (@GamebredFighter) September 15, 2016
"No type of response," Masvidal said of the tweet. "I’m tired of fighters on social media accepting a fight with me and then backing out of due to injury or something… days later, weeks later. It’s like they’re trying to get street cred or something—‘See I agreed to fight him.’ But we didn’t fight so you’re still a b----."
Masvidal believes the reasoning is simple—he is a tough fight and match up for everyone, and fighter's don't want to risk it.
"I know how to fight. I’m not going to fight anyone who is devastatingly good in any one area over me. I can fight [Demian] Maia tomorrow and he is not going take me down and hold me down. Or Johny Hendricks. I’m not going to get ridden out by nobody. I’m not going to get out struck by anybody. If they’re that better of a striker than me, then I’d just take them down. People know that.
"If you knew how many people said no to me behind closed doors. Joe Silva’s called them, ‘hey do you want to fight so-and-so.' Right now as we speak, there are three top names they’re trying to get at. None of them have said anything back. Why?
"If you’re a top-5, top-6 guy and let’s say you’re coming off a loss and they’re like why don’t you fight so-and-so. Easy fight, he’s not even ranked, go in there and smoke that dude. You should be like ‘f—- yeah, this guy is not even ranked, I’ll go in there and smoke him real quick and get back on the winning track, yada, yada, yada.’ None of these guys want to do it though. They’re all tough guys in front of that camera. When it comes time to do it for real, they’re b------."
Getting featured on a premier card like UFC 205 doesn't do anything for his future. Only top-ranked opponents can advance his career. While his immediate future is getting sorted out, Masvidal is trying to stay positive and put his trust in God, but he is praying for a certain path.
"God is bigger than anybody's plans. I want Johny Hendricks in Mexico, then either Cowboy or Kelvin gets hurt and I step in November 12, a week later, and f--- more s--- up. Just because they did that to me. Last minute, I step in there and kick some more a--," Masvidal said.
"I just want my opportunity to show the world how much of a stud I am by fighting a dude who is supposed to kick my a--, like Johny Hendricks or Kelvin Gastelum."