Welterweight Jorge Masvidal says he is happy to fight at UFC 251 at short notice as champion Kamaru Usman is “nowhere near as good as advertised”.
Nigerian-American Usman, 33, is on an 11-fight UFC winning streak and makes his third title defence in Abu Dhabi.
“I don’t have faith in him,” said Masvidal. “There’s other guys that I wouldn’t have taken on six days.”
The welterweight title fight headlines the first of four events as part of UFC’s Fight Island series from 11 to 25 July.
The shows will be held with no fans on Yas Island, inside a ‘Safe Zone’ which will house over 2,500 fight personnel and island employees, who have all returned negative tests.
‘He’s the biggest, baddest dude around’
Masvidal suffered back-to-back defeats in 2017 but revived his UFC career in 2019, thrusting himself into world-title contention with three explosive wins.
First the veteran knocked out Darren Till in London before recording the fastest knockout in UFC history – five seconds against Ben Askren at UFC 239 – and stopping Nate Diaz in November to become the first holder of the symbolic BMF belt.
“He’s had his ups and downs,” said Usman. “But at this moment, he’s the biggest, baddest dude and the next in line.
“I know he’ll present a different challenge, so I’ll treat him accordingly and discipline him in the appropriate way. That’s my job, that’s why I’m the champion.”
Masvidal initially turned down the fight due to a pay dispute with UFC president Dana White, who “came back with a much better deal” after Burns had to withdraw.
“Dana and the UFC have done an amazing job,” said Usman. “It’s incredible to see the precautions they’ve taken, from bottom to top. I’m grateful to be a part of this and for everything these guys have done.
“I was disappointed when Gilbert fell out, but I’m the champion, I have to take on all challengers, and this is the fight that should have happened all along. It’s the fight that people wanted.”
Who else is fighting?
Alexander Volkanovski has an immediate rematch with Max Holloway, from Hawaii, who he beat by a unanimous decision in December to take his featherweight title.
The Australian said: “Some people still think he’s the best. He’s not – and I get to prove that this weekend. I want to leave no doubt.”
Both have beaten Jose Aldo in the last three years, since which the veteran Brazilian has dropped to bantamweight.
If the 33-year-old beats Russia’s Petr Yan for the vacant world title he’ll become just the eighth UFC fighter to become a two-weight champion. Aldo also thinks it would put him “among the three best of all time”, with Georges St-Pierre and Jon Jones.
There’s also a rematch between Brazil’s Jessica Andrade and American Rose Namajunas, the two women’s strawweight champions before Zhang Weili beat Andrade at UFC 237 in May 2019.