UFC welterweight Jorge Masvidal had the most successful year of his career in 2019 but as he tells RT Sport, he has a whole lot more in the tank ahead of what he describes as a ‘Rated R’ year in 2020.
To adapt a well-worn fight cliche, it took 16 years for Jorge Masvidal to be an overnight success. ‘Gamebred’ began last year by entering enemy territory in London to take on hometown favorite Darren Till, where it was assumed by practically everyone in the arena that Masvidal’s role in the production was very much a supporting one.
That was until the second round.
“Definitely the Till knockout [was important],” Masvidal explained to RT Sport in Las Vegas when describing his phenomenal ascent in 2019. “If you look at the whole fight, we were exchanging a lot of chess pieces there. Till was setting up to murder me, I was setting up to murder him. It was a battle of wits as much as it was physicality. So I’m proud that I was able to outsmart that individual.”
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Ever since that fight last year, Masvidal has spoken in respectful tones when referring to Till. However, the same enthusiasm doesn’t quite extend to some of his other foes in the UFC’s 170lbs fold.
“But man, this day and age, when people want to skip lines and chat sh*t to people, you can’t do that man,” he said. “No with me at least, you can go around punking people, but you’re never to punk me motherf*cker, never in your f*cking life.”
Masvida’s rise – including his record-breaking KO of Ben Askren in July and anointment as the UFC’s ‘BMF’ against Nate Diaz in November – could be seen as a victory for the good ol’ days, a traditional, blood and guts fighter succeeding in the age of social media callouts and post-fight blitzes on the mic.
But are characters like him slowly but surely disappearing from the sport?
“Yes and no,” he says. “Let’s go before The Ultimate Fighter [TV show], right, it was a little different, the characters, the landscape, the amount of athletes involved. The Ultimate Fighter comes out, everyone wants to be a fighter, it gets harder to find fighters, there’s plenty of fighters with the heart, the talent, the drive, amazing fighters, there’s plenty of those guys.
“But the sport is switching more and more towards what are you driving, what are you eating, how much are you talking before the fight, how much are you actually fighting in the cage.”
Of course, one half of this weekend’s UFC 246 main event is well known for his verbal barbs – and Masvidal admits that there is room for trash-talk in the mixed martial arts, so long as you know what you are doing.
“Let me say one thing, I’m not an anti-trash-talker, there’s guys that talk trash, I like it. It’s when it’s just like high school shit. ‘Your mom’s fat, your dad’s left you.’ Man, show some originality, you know… I like something funnier or at least something good and technical.
“When guys are just making stupid jokes or talking about people’s wives, I don’t think we need it in this sport man.”
Masvidal, who was speaking at the launch of his ‘El Recuerdo’ (which means ‘memory’) mezcal brand in Las Vegas, indicated that he sees himself as fighting for three more years, at which point he will retire and enjoy the fruits of his labor.
There is a whole lot more work to be done before that day comes, however.
“I can’t slow down,” he says. “It’s painful to get my body there, it’s hurts, I have to make a lot of sacrifices, but I’m willing to do it every time, because I love it. I want to win more than anything else, and I want to show every other motherfucker in my weight class that they’ve never been a threat, it’s always been me.”
And as for what’s next, Masvidal says he is currently unsure. He has stated on numerous occasions that he doesn’t want to ‘wait around’ for anyone but given the choice of fighting for the world title or taking on the sport’s biggest star in Conor McGregor, he sees that as an easy decision to make.
“The belt’s always going to be there. Conor, we don’t know. And that one happens to make the most money possible. We gotta take that. After that, I’m gonna baptize that hoot guy [Usman], that bald motherf*cker. Your time’s up man.”
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Before the interview concluded, RT Sport took the opportunity to invite Masvidal to Russia for a future UFC card and asked as to whether he would like to sample some of the local vodka in Moscow.
“Vodka f*cks me up the next day, if I drink vodka I can’t go to the gym the next day. Since I been 18, 19, I can’t drink no vodka,” he says.
All of that said, Masvidal concludes that the eyes of the mixed martial arts world should remain fixed to him this year.
“2019 was PG 13 rated movie for my career, 2020 is going to be rated R as it gets. It’s going to be violent, my brother.”
Watch this space.