A day after Gilbert Burns was forced out of the UFC 251 main event, there is renewed hope that next week’s welterweight title fight can be saved with an even bigger fight.
According to several sources, active negotiations are underway to book Kamaru Usman against Jorge Masvidal as the new main event for UFC 251 on July 11.
Sources say the negotiations are not nearing completion yet, but they are ongoing and both sides believe there is a way to make this fight happen. Whether it will eventually happen remains to be seen.
This is significant as the UFC and Masvidal were far apart on contract talks to make this fight happen over the past two months. In the end, the UFC decided to step down from negotiations about a month ago and gave the title fight to Burns, who recently beat former champion Tyron Woodley.
Afterwards, Masvidal published a series of tweets criticizing the UFC for their business practices and questioning whether the relationship would be terminated for some time.
But when Burns was forced off the card late Friday night, momentum began to build for the original plan, which is a grudge match that has been going on for months. Both Usman and Masvidal have been embedded in a heated feud that saw the duo enter a screaming match at the Super Bowl in Miami earlier this year.
On Saturday afternoon, Usman tweeted, “May it be time for the pig to scream,” while Masvidal’s co-manager was responsible for a series of Instagram stories showing Masvidal on the phone with the caption “negotiating.”
Of course, it is not as simple as today to just join a fight.
On Saturday, Masvidal took and passed an antibody test for coronavirus. That test shows if a person has been exposed to the corona virus before, but does not determine if anyone currently has the virus. If the fight is finally signed, he must pass at least three coronavirus tests before the fight night, as well as all fighters competing in Abu Dhabi this month.
The UFC’s charter flight to Abu Dhabi left on Friday night, so they also need to find out how to get both Masvidal and Usman, who did not fly once Burns pulled out, to the United Arab Emirates in time for the event and with the ability to transfer the government’s test protocol for coronavirus in place.
Masvidal is considered one of the most popular fighters in the sport, with many believing he was the 2019 fighter of the year after taking impressive victories over Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nathan Diaz.
If the two sides can’t agree on an agreement, UFC 251 would go on with two title contests: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway 2 for featherweight title and Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo for bantamweight title.