After it was announced that UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman will be making his next title defense against Jorge Masvidal, a question asked by many was, “Why?” Kamaru Usman just defeated Masvidal in a lopsided victory last year in what was Masvidal’s most recent fight. So why is he being granted what is essentially an immediate rematch?
A common belief is that Usman made the decision because Masvidal is one of the biggest stars in the sport, which means more eyes and more dollars. Evidence of this can be found in the massive success of the UFC 251 pay-per-view headlined by the two. In a fight that only had six days’ worth of promotion, the event was still able to generate well over 1 million pay-per-view buys. With such numbers open to the public, one can’t help but wonder if Usman took the fight primarily for business reasons and because he wants to benefit from Masvidal’s star power.
“There’s truth and there’s not truth in that,” Usman said in an interview with ESPN released Tuesday. “You can’t say you’re the star and that’s who I want to be. That’s wrong. Because I have what everybody in the world wants. So you can’t say that. Of course, does he bring more eyes right now? Absolutely. I’m a realist. I’ve always been a realist. Absolutely. Does he bring more eyes right now? Yes.
“If I look at all the pools of guys, I’ve been through all of them. Now, I’m just lapping them all. If we’re running a race right now, I’m lapping everybody right now. So he’s dead last right now, the first guy I’m about to lap.”
Usman reiterated Tuesday what he has been saying since his UFC 258 post-fight interview: he wants to rectify his performance back at UFC 251 against Masvidal, not because of fan criticism but because of self-criticism. And if anything, the champ says he is the one doing Masvidal the favor by gifting him with a title shot and all that comes with it.
“It’s green panty night when you fight me,” Usman declared. “He’s not getting the pay per views and stuff like that on his own. He has to fight me. And so, yeah, is he the biggest name right now in the division out of all these guys? Absolutely. But he’s the first one that I’m lapping right now in the division.”
Usman candidly divided his decision to be 60% stemming from a desire to eliminate Masvidal’s “built-in excuse” of six days’ notice by breaking him once and for all and the other 40% being because of the mainstream cache and extra eyes that comes with a rematch against “Gamebred.”
Colby Covington Left Out Of The Mix
Prior to the announcement of Usman/Masvidal 2, if there were to be a rematch between Usman and a past opponent, the name “Colby Covington” would probably instantly come to mind as the first option. So why wasn’t he selected? Covington’s bout against Usman was much, much more competitive than Masvidal’s in what was one of the greatest fights in UFC history. Plus, Covington was able to bounce back from his loss to Usman with a victory while Masvidal has not competed since. According to the champion, Covington still has more work to do.
“I want to see activity, and he’s not showing activity. That’s a problem,” Usman said. “The champion can’t be the most active guy in the division. Because like I said, I’ve lapped everybody, and now I’m coming back around. And you can’t just sit there and say, ‘Oh, well, pick me, pick me, pick me.’ Show me activity. Give me something. Give me a reason.
“It’s not necessarily me. You know what I’m capable of doing. I’ve done it before. You can ask his jaw. I’ve done that before. Now, it’s for him to show the people that he deserves another chance to fight for the title. And you can’t sit back and say, ‘Oh, I beat Tyron Woodley. That’s it. I deserve a fight at the title.’ No, that doesn’t get you a shot at the title.”
A glaring point of possible contention from Covington and others is that Covington has been more active than Masvidal since losing to Usman. Referring back to Usman’s earlier comments, though, it appears the difference is that Usman was unsatisfied with his relatively uneventful victory over Masvidal while he was more than content with breaking Covington’s jaw at UFC 245.
Still, Covington won’t be happy to hear these comments from Usman and will be eager to step in on short notice if needed to show the champion just how active he can be.
What do you make of Kamaru Usman’s reasons for being interested in rematching Jorge Masvidal but not Colby Covington?