Kamaru Usman to maximize chances in rematch vs. Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261

That gap caused a giggle or two after Thursday’s press conference to overdo Saturday’s main event at UFC 261. As Usman maneuvered the golden welterweight belt on his right shoulder, Masvidal flexed his biceps, hit his chest and strode off the stage wearing a silver belt that was symbolic crowning him the “badest mother in sport —– “.

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As he prepares for his fourth title defense, Usman seems to see this rematch as an opportunity, not for the payday some are looking for, but to improve his resume as he strives to become the largest welterweight in UFC history.

“Let’s face it: you have suffered 14 losses in your career, seven in the UFC. You’re 3-3 in your last six. You are sitting there today because I chose you, ”Usman told Masvidal on Thursday. “I’m coming around the track and you’re the first guy I’m about to drive, period.”

Masvidal (35-14 in mixed martial arts) joined the circuit in 2013 and won nine of his first 15 fights. In 2019, his star rose due to three straight wins, the second of which was called in just five seconds and is the fastest knockout in UFC history.

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His only fight in 2020 took place in UFC 251 after Gilbert Burns tried to challenge Usman in July but tested positive for the coronavirus. Masvidal stepped in as a replacement for Burns six days in advance.

36-year-old Masvidal flew to Abu Dhabi for his first title shot after seven years and 18 fights in the UFC. Usman faced Masvidal with a broken nose but won unanimously after five rounds.

Masvidal promised to “run it back”. On Saturday he will enter the octagon for the first time since then. The 33-year-old Usman secured a third consecutive title defense against Burns in the third round in February. He wants a similarly crucial close in his rematch with Masvidal.

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“The reason I wanted this fight is because I wasn’t really happy with this first one,” he said on ESPN’s First Take. “I want to end this fight emphatically.”

With the win over Burns Usman surpassed welterweight legend Georges St-Pierre with 12 wins in a row. He is one of three fighters to begin his UFC career with 13 straight wins along with Anderson Silva and Khabib Nurmagomedov. These wins are the UFC’s longest active streak and the second longest in its history after Silvas 16.

Usman has beaten six of the top 10 welterweights, including all the top 4. His dominance had already earned him a place in talks among the greatest welterweights in UFC history, but if he continues to win he could dethrone St-Pierre – his Career ended with eleven title defenses in a row.

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“I sort of cleaned up the division and now I’m coming over and now I’m fighting these guys in rematches,” Usman said on First Take.

Two other reigning champions are on the main map. The women’s strawweight world champion, Zhang Weili (21: 1), the first Chinese female champion in UFC history, will meet former defending champion Rose Namajunas (9: 4) at the co-main event. The women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko (20-3) is aiming for a fifth defense in a row against Jéssica Andrade (21-8), who lost her straw weight belt to Zhang in 2019.

The Saturday event in Jacksonville, Florida will be the UFC’s first to a full audience since March 2020. Usman told ESPN that he wants to cement his legacy while it is still in its prime.

“My body doesn’t feel like it did when it was 23,” he said. “I’m honest with myself knowing that at the end of the day I don’t want to be slapped in the face forever. … In that moment, I was blessed with the ability to be the best in the world now and I will maximize that. “