The reigning UFC welterweight champ is currently preparing for his first title defense on Dec. 14 against Colby Covington at UFC 245. Last weekend, he sat cageside for UFC 244, where Masvidal dispatched Nate Diaz by third-round TKO following a doctor’s stoppage.
Masvidal is now one of the hottest names in the sport with a list of potential opponents he could face next. A title shot has been mentioned as a possibility.
Usman is actually happy to see Masvidal receive so much attention for those high-profile wins. But he’s quick to pump the brakes on title talk.
“I wouldn’t say [I’ve been] impressed,” Usman explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Because it’s Masvidal, nothing’s changed. He’s the same guy. He’s fought the same way forever. It’s just the luck of the draw. He’s getting that luck of the draw.
“Let’s be honest, Darren Till dropped him in the first round of their fight, and let’s say if he didn’t land that punch [in the second round], how does that fight play out? Had he not landed that knee [against Ben Askren]—and I’m not going to say it’s lucky because he drilled that—how does that fight play out? There’s a lot of questions to be answered.”
Drubbings of Diaz, Askren and Till don’t convince Usman that Masvidal is suddenly going to steamroll the welterweight division’s best – namely himself, former interim champion Colby Covington and former 170-pound king Tyron Woodley.
“I’ve yet to see him fight a full-on welterweight from start to finish and completely dominate them,” Usman said about Masvidal “Then at that point I can say this is a different guy. But I think right now he’s riding the wave, and he’s got the luck of the draw on his side.
“Ultimately, you can’t knock anything that he’s done. I think he’s done a phenomenal job with the opportunity he’s been presented with and he’s ran away with it. I’m happy for him on that end.”
When it comes to the hype versus reality, Usman feels Masvidal has caught lightning in a bottle with his past few performances, especially when it comes to his stunning five-second knockout of Askren.
“He’s riding that hype right now,” Usman stated. “That’s the thing with guys like Ben Askren, he came in and he really ran his mouth and really got the people riled up. And so when you create that much hype, and you put a guy like Jorge Masvidal in front of him, and let’s say [Askren] goes out there and does what he wants to do to Jorge Masvidal, you hear nothing about Jorge Masvidal anymore.
“[Masvidal is] the same guy who wins one or two, then loses one or two. It’s still the same guy. Because he landed that knee in such impressive fashion, he stole that hype that Askren was potentially riding. That has a lot to do with where he’s at right now.”
And so, it follows that Usman likes his chances against Masvidal in a potential fight. Even considering his rivalry with Covington, he can’t help but name the ex-interim champ as someone who’d give the first-ever “BMF” champ a lot of issues.
“I have never been in their training sessions, but I’m pretty sure we can kind of conclude how that went as far as [Masvidal and Covington] in the room training and what not,” Usman said. “Because when Masvidal has been through the wringer, or fought wrestlers who were somewhat tough, he had a problem with them. You can only imagine what a guy that actually knows him and works with him everyday inside the room was doing to him.”
Right now, Usman is keeping his sole focus on Covington and the title fight at UFC 245. But afterwards, he could see himself turning his attention towards Masvidal in 2020.
It may not be the toughest challenge in the division, but Usman can’t deny that Masvidal brings a swarm of attention right now, and that will always make a title fight that much more intriguing.
“He’s got a lot of hype right now, and he’s been in this sport for a long, long time,” Usman said. “But at the end of the day, does it really matter that you have all that hype if you never get to the pinnacle of the sport? I like the fact that that he has all this hype. It brings a lot of eyes. So if he does make it to me and that fight is made, I would actually be very, very interested in that.”