There are no real grey areas with Jorge Masvidal — you always know where you stand, how he feels about you, and what he thinks, in general, because the 37-year-old Miami legend has no interest in being anything but his authentic self, 24/7, 365.
The style and playfulness he exhibits on camera? The charisma? The charm? All real. Catch him in a good mood or build a little rapport with him, and you’ll walk away from your conversations feeling like a million bucks, because in those moments, he’s so personable, so magnetic that it can feel like you’re just chopping it up with an old friend.
But the same is true about the other side of Masvidal as well — the edgier side, the menacing side; the side that comes up when you catch him on a bad day, rub him the wrong way, or, heaven help you, cross him in any kind of way.
Colby Covington experienced the former, benefitting from Masvidal’s generosity, his kindness, his willingness to make judgments about people based on his own experiences with them.
Saturday night, when the two men step into the Octagon across from one another in the main event of UFC 272, the former interim welterweight champion is going to come face-to-face with the other side of the man aptly named “Gamebred.”
“Colby won the title and asked my *** to be in his b****-a** corner and my coach Paulino (Hernandez),” said Masvidal, explaining how the former friends who once lived together turned into bitter rivals. “This is when we have the serious separation, where anywhere I see him now, it's like, could be a very big problem.
“My coach trained him all the way from his amateur fight to his professional fights. He won a title and he finally made a little bit of change, right? Finally. You finally get to winning that belt where you made real change and you dismiss the person and act like, no, let me just give you this instead of that, instead of what we had arranged and shook hands on like a man.
“That's when I completely cut ties with this individual now.”
Hernandez isn’t just a coach to Masvidal, though — he’s a mentor and a father figure to the two-time UFC welterweight title challenger. Along with his father, Hernandez is the other half of the tag team Masvidal credits for helping him navigate away from the life he was living and head down the road that has led to him becoming not only one of the biggest stars in the sport, but one of the most respected competitors in the game, as well.
Given the relationship between Masvidal and Hernandez, and the code the 50-fight veteran lives by, there was no way that a situation like that wasn’t going to become combustible, especially because Masvidal was the one that connected the two in the first place.
“For me to bring somebody to him and then that person rip him off, imagine how that's on me?” said Masvidal. “That's on my credit. So, of course, I picked up his tab, which he wouldn't accept.
“Once that happened, I was like ‘Man, I f***** up! I cared after this piece of **** human being so much. Jon Jones told me. (Tyron) Woodley told me. People from Oregon told me. So many f***ing people told me, but I was like, ‘Man, the guy’s decent to me. I’m not going to just turn my back on him.’
“I wish I just would have been a little bit more cautious with this little b****.”
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There have been questions about whether the animosity between the two is real or not, but there is nothing fake about the heat between the UFC 272 headliners.
“I think their rift got so deeply personal for two reasons,” said Dan Lambert, owner of American Top Team, where the two men trained alongside one another and forged their initial bond. “(One), Masvidal doesn't really play like that.
“People like to say, ‘Oh, this guy's an OG. That guy's an OG.’ Masvidal's the OG, and you're either with him or against him, and if you're against him, he's going to want to hunt you down for the rest of his life. And I think the other part of it is just how close they were. Those guys were really tight. They did a lot of things and spent a lot of time together. It's not like somebody new at the gym just came and rubbed you the wrong way and you're like, ‘Screw that guy.’
“These guys were really close and, sometimes, the more deeply you feel about each other, the harder you take it and the worse it goes, and so it just went south pretty quick.”
Neither side has denied the closeness of their bond or the genuine nature of their friendship during those years when things were going well. Each has acknowledged they were tight and spent a great deal of time together, inside and outside of the gym, which is why it’s as real as it gets.
The fact that they have differing views on what caused the friction and eventual fracture between them underscores that, as well. So too does the fact that Lambert had to create rules the duo needed to follow about leaving their tensions outside the gym, only to have them break those rules in less than a week, prompting him to prohibit both Covington and Masvidal from training at the gym any longer.
Covington saw the writing on the wall and took the banishment in stride, quickly setting up shop with the team at MMA Masters.
“It became such a distraction for the team that we had to tell both guys they couldn't train here,” Lambert said of the simmering feud between the two. “And Colby said, ‘Yeah, I understand. That makes sense. I get it. I'll go train somewhere else.’
Masvidal? Not so much.
“Jorge was like, ‘Train somewhere else? Screw you, man. I've been here 17 years. I'm fourth in line to be president of this place when you guys die. I'll just go home for a few months and train there, and then I'll come back when stuff cools down.’ I was like, ‘Sorry, dude. That's our decision. It's not going to cool down.’
“But every other day, another coach or fighter is like, ‘Hey, I'm going to go over Jorge's house and help him today. Sorry, I won't make it,’” continued Lambert. “And then I texted something to one of my kids and I got a response and said, ‘Hey, sorry. Masvidal made me promise him I wouldn't talk to you until you let him back in the gym.’ And I eventually just got beaten down and tapped out, and he's been back ever since.”
But it shouldn’t take Lambert laying out the history between the two to convince anyone that Masvidal has genuine contempt for Covington and truly wants to inflict harm on this man on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
All you have to do is ask him about his former friend, former roommate, former training partner, and then listen to the response.
This is real life tension between former friends that just so happen to be able to settle their differences inside the Octagon.
“You've been talking a lot of smack,” said Masvidal, turning his answer about finally getting to settle things this weekend into a message being shared directly with Covington. “You've been saying this about my children. You've been saying that about people's wives and stuff, not even mine. You're talking about my teammates’ wives for no reason.
“I'm the vessel that the universe has picked to wreck your face, man, in a bad way. So I'm so pumped for this one.
“In this sport, it's not like we're two politicians who just talk bad about each other and whatever,” he added. “This sport, we get to do all that politician stuff, but then the truth comes out. They lock the cage and it's just me and you, man.
“Whatever you said is whatever you said, and whatever I said is whatever I said; it doesn't really matter. It's just go time, and we're going to go until somebody can't go no more.”
This isn’t pretend.
Covington crossed Masvidal in a way that hits right to the core of who he is as a man, and now he’s got to pay for those sins.
And true to who he is — who he has always been — “Gamebred” is ready to enjoy every last second of the super-necessary retribution he’s going to hand out this weekend.
UFC 272: Covington vs Masvidal took place on Saturday, March 5, 2022, live from a sold out T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive all of the action on UFC Fight Pass.