While the novelty of Leon Edwards’ memorable head-kick knockout of Kamaru Usman at UFC 278 last month certainly hasn’t worn off, the discussion surrounding the 170-pound championship picture now includes talk of the Jamaican-born Brit’s first defense.
On paper, it appears that the logical step is a trilogy between Edwards and Kamaru Usman, especially given the dominant reign that “The Nigerian Nightmare” enjoyed before running it back with “Rocky.”
But despite all parties appearing to reach that conclusion, with Usman even welcoming the idea of a trip across the pond for a challenge in enemy territory, one off-form and low-ranked contender has staked their own unlikely claim.
Although no one will pretend that Masvidal’s recent outings — consecutive losses to Usman and a convincing defeat to arch rival Colby Covington — and his place at #9 on the welterweight ladder are deserving of another shot at gold, “Gamebred” has an ace up his sleeve in the form of a backstage altercation with the newly crowned champ back in 2019.
Despite his best efforts, it doesn’t appear that Masvidal will force himself above Usman in the queue, with Edwards noting that the Miami native needs to return to the win column first, as well as the Englishman’s coach insisting that “Gamebred” is at the back of the line.
The titleholder’s sentiment was shared by Chael Sonnen in a recent YouTube video. “The American Gangster” noted that it’s extremely unlikely that Masvidal secures the next spot opposite Edwards at the expense of Usman.
“The play by Masvidal is he’s got to push (the Gilbert Burns fight back), he’s got to keep that open because he thinks he can get the Leon fight. He wants to preserve that idea,” Sonnen said. “I don’t think Jorge can get that fight right now. If Jorge had one win, you’re in a very different conversation. If Jorge had two wins, Jorge is getting the fight. But with one, you’re having a different conversation.
“Leon wants to do it, Jorge wants to do it. It’s a who deserves it issue. It’s a what are we gonna tell Kamaru issue; a what are we gonna tell Covington issue; a what are we gonna tell the winner of Diaz/Chimaev issue,” Sonnen added.
However, Sonnen did propose another option that could keep Masvidal’s hopes alive.
Sonnen To Masvidal: “I’m Getting You Closer”
While he admitted that an immediate title shot off the back of a three-fight skid is unlikely and unwarranted, Sonnen did suggest that Masvidal can keep himself close to proceedings by filling a backup spot for what appears to be an inevitable trilogy between Edwards and Usman.
As well as that benefit, the former MMA fighter-turned-analyst suggested that marking himself as a replacement option will allow him to avoid the risks that a fight against another top contender would present.
“If Jorge is hellbent on this, to find himself in that backup position is one that I do believe he can slide across,” Sonnen said. “Gonna have to be the only one there, gonna be some moving parts, gonna be unlikely; but I do think that he can get it across, and I do think it’s worth doing, and I do think it’s a coveted spot, and I do think it also buys (Masvidal) a little time.
“If there’s someone Jorge doesn’t wanna get in there with, who he thinks is gonna be a problem, Jorge is a veteran. He’s a badass, he’ll go do it, but I’m sharing with you that he can plan his strategy,” Sonnen continued. “That is a beautiful out… the backup spot. It’s not the ideal plan and it’s not even the perfect one, but I’m getting you closer.”
Although it appears that his efforts to convince the UFC of the merits of a UK clash between himself and Edwards have gone begging, Masvidal doesn’t look as if he’s going to stop campaigning, and he’s also not without some support.
Even former opponent Darren Till, a compatriot of Edwards, has suggested that a grudge match between “Gamebred” and the champ would be bigger in England than the Usman trilogy.
Do you agree with Chael Sonnen? Is the backup spot the best that Jorge Masvidal can get?