Jorge Masvidal knows a real fighter when he sees one.
That’s why a giant smile creeped across his face in August when Nate Diaz called him out following a dominant win over Anthony Pettis at UFC 241.
He didn’t need to make up any fake animosity with Diaz to help sell the fight, because it was the kind of challenge Masvidal had long desired throughout his 16-year career.
In the days leading to their showdown at UFC 244 – a fight that will crown the first ever “baddest motherf*cker” champion – Masvidal has nothing but praise for Diaz. Because in reality, they are two athletes cut from the same cloth despite coming from two different worlds.
“I think it just comes down to we both fight and we’re dogs in that cage, but at the same time, we see the bullsh*t, and we don’t play in the bullsh*t,” Masvidal said about Diaz during the UFC 244 media conference call. “You’re not going to tell me jump, or wear a suit, or do this. I’m going to do what the ‘F’ I feel like, and when I want to do it. It’s part of the reason it’s taken me so long to get the UFC to truly get behind me.
“And on the same token, he’s been the same dude from his side of the country, doing his thing his own way. And we both see it, and we can salute each other. We’re going to go to war and everything, but no matter what happens, I’ve got a nothing but praise and admiration for Nate. I like what he’s done and how he’s carried himself. So, hell yea, man. Kudos to him. Now, let’s get this fight sh*t going on.”
Battling for recognition isn’t easy in a sport like MMA, where hundreds of athletes are all clamoring to shine under the same spotlight. Masvidal has always known he deserved more attention, but he just kept plugging away with his career until he finally saw an opportunity to get more people looking in his direction.
It started earlier this year when Masvidal returned from more than a yearlong layoff, traveled to England and silenced a raucous home crowd by knocking out local favorite Darren Till. He then followed that up with a stunning flying knee knockout just five seconds into his fight against Ben Askren, which felt like a main event despite sharing space on the undercard beneath the actual headliner between Jon Jones and Thiago Santos.
Nothing happened by accident, as Masvidal explains it, because he made the super necessary changes in his preparation that led him to jaw-dropping finishes, and those eventually led to his fight against Diaz.
“Well, on the mindset, I’ve got the book coming out,” he said. “It’s coming out, not yet, but it’s going to come out soon. It’s going to be everywhere man. You can get it at gas stations, Barnes & Nobles, Toys ‘R’ Us, anywhere it’s going to be at, and that’s going to dictate the mindset. On the physical side, we can’t talk about that too much, because it’s like the secret-sauce preparation, what I do and how I prepare and stuff.
“I looked at my whole career in 15 years, and I thought things that went really, really well for me during training camps and I did them. And I saw things that were maybe incredibly tough, or we thought were doing well, but the actual results were maybe me being flat or things like that. So we’ve got everything that actually worked, amplified it to the max, and things that didn’t work, cut them.
“I got one of those guys that—and I’m not joking about this, like those analytic guys for Google, to come in and see where a company is doing good and bad. We got one of those dudes, brought him into the camp, gave him all the data, and that’s what we’ve been doing, man. So I can’t get too much into it either, because I spent a lot of money paying that dude. But yea, man, we’re kicking ass.”
It’s safe to say everything Masvidal is doing paid off, because with two straight knockouts on his resume and a swarm of attention, he’s finally headlining his first UFC pay-per-view after six years and 17 fights with the promotion. It’s largely because he figured out what the fans want from him.
“I did this sport for so long, and if you look at some of my masterpieces that I’ve painted in the past, people didn’t appreciate sh*t of it,” Masvidal explained. “They could care less whether it was a decision, I won or lost, they didn’t give a damn. All they want to see is pure violence, me put people to sleep in a very bad way, and that’s all I’m going to do.
“I understand my role in this life, and my job is just to hurt people and get them out of there. They don’t want to see a guy that could fight going backwards and they could rally up a lot of points and cut and bruise somebody and knock them down. No. They want to see me leaving guys in a stretcher. Cool. I’m in.”
The same rules apply for Diaz, who has been notoriously hard to finish throughout his own career that dates back to 2004.
Diaz has only suffered one knockout in 31 professional fights, but Masvidal is going to do everything possible to add another to his record this weekend.
“I’m that dude that pops cherries,” Masvidal said. “His cherry has been popped already, but I’m that dude that pops cherries. This dirty motherf*cker right here is popping cherries. Ben Askren had never been knocked out when I got a hold of him. The dude from England had never been knocked out when I got a hold of him, and the list goes on and on.
“If you look through my career, I put an end to a lot of guys never been knocked down, never been stopped. So, another tough guy to knock out or a guy who’s never been knocked out, I don’t care about him. I never care about my opponents, especially now—I care about “Gamebred” and “Gamebred” is only going for the off button. That’s the only thing I’m trying to do, is take this guy out of consciousness for a while.”