As the hours tick by, it is looking more and more likely that Jorge Masvidal will step in and face welterweight champion Kamaru Usman at UFC 251 on Saturday on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.
Masvidal had been expected to be Usman’s next challenger for quite some time, but that fell apart when Masvidal held out for a sweeter deal on his contract. Not coming to terms with him, the UFC shifted to a red-hot Gilbert Burns, who agreed to face Usman in the UFC 251 main event on Fight Island.
Burns, however, was ruled out on Friday when his pre-flight COVID-19 test result came back positive, forcing him out of the bout.
Masvidal and former challenger Colby Covington quickly confirmed that they were willing to step in and fight Usman.
The UFC was more keen on Masvidal challenging Usman since he was already deemed to be the next challenger and Covington’s last fight was a late fifth-round TKO loss to Usman in December.
ESPN’s Ariel Helwani on Sunday tweeted that Usman and Masvidal were both on their way to Las Vegas, which is where they would fly out of on Monday if they were to get to Abu Dhabi in time to fight at UFC 251. They must first clear COVID-19 screening before being allowed to fly, so it is unlikely that the UFC would announce the bout until they are cleared.
One of Masvidal’s managers, Malki Kawa, posted a couple of images on Instagram, seeming to back the idea that Masvidal was in preparation to head to Abu Dhabi. One image was a sort of “Bat Signal” call to Masvidal with Kawa noting the location at Yas Island (where Fight Island is located). The other showed Masvidal getting a COVID-19 antibody test.
With UFC 251 just days away, we’re sure to no soon, likely late Sunday or early Monday, whether or not the fight is official, keeping Usman in the main event.