The reason Gilbert Burns, not Jorge Masvidal, was originally in the UFC 251 main event opposite welterweight champion Kamaru Usman had little to do with rankings.
Of course, it made sense to slot Burns into the fight, deservedly, when he was on a six-fight winning streak that rocketed him to the No. 1 contender spot in the division. But it was a fight that had been promised Masvidal for quite some time.
Masvidal only came to terms to step into the fight over the last couple of days when Burns was pulled from the fight after testing positive for COVID-19.
The reason Masvidal wasn’t in the fight originally was because he was at odds with the UFC over what he felt was fair compensation for his star power in a main event title fight.
The UFC lost a lot of leverage with the situation being what it was, that they were trying to save the first main event on the new UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. Masvidal admits that he didn’t get specifically what he was asking for, but sounds as if progress was made, at least enough progress to agree to the fight.
“I didn’t get exactly what I wanted, but I got very, very close to it,” Masvidal told ESPN.
“I’m happy more than anything because I get to break this guy’s face and get paid for it. But one thing I’m not going to do, which I’ve done a long part of my career, is get underpaid. That’s not going to happen no more – not from here going forward.”
“I’m not asking for them to pay me something outrageous,” Masvidal explained. “No. I’m asking to give me more money of what I do bring in off the pay-per-view side and that’s what we were fighting for. We came to a pretty good deal so I’m happy right now.
“The initial deal was a s–t deal on the pay-per-view end and on the guarantee side, so I have two negatives. I could understand you don’t want to give me that much on the guaranteed. But on the pay-per-view, what I bring in, what people purchase, I want more money on that, and they weren’t budging, and that was that. So all this craziness had to happen for them to come to their senses.”
(Video courtesy of UFC)