Following back to back losses and more than a year removed from fighting, a funny thing happened to Jorge Masvidal last March in London.
“I remember walking out to the cage and telling myself, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I missed it this much.’ It was an amazing thing. I didn’t know that I missed it so much. I just love to fight, you know? That’s my favorite thing to do in the world. So to get paid for it and go up against a guy like [Darren] Till in his homeland, that’s gonna come to fight, was an amazing experience. But more than anything, I missed it. I had been gone for a year, and I was a fish without water. So as soon as I got thrown back in there, a lot of the media weren’t giving me too many chances.”
They didn’t need to. The only chance Masvidal needed was the one he gave himself. Less than ten minutes later, Till was lying motionless on the canvas. The knockout sucked the air out of the O2 Arena, and injected a fresh supply of swagger into the Miami, FL native, who left the building with a pair of bonus checks.
“If I am who I say I am, then I’m going to compete on that day, and I’m going to be just fine. I’m a shark, that’s water, and I’m going to swim. I’m gonna make it known that I’m the alpha hunter in these waters.”
It wasn’t an easy path back to that magic evening, but the recipe for forging that path was.
“I took a lot of negativity and extra-ness out of my life. For that one year I was inactive, I looked at my life and things that needed to be done, and took ‘em out. My coaches loved it, they said ‘Man, your energy is a lot better as far as gas tank goes; everything is a lot better.’ So that was it: get the evil-ness out of the way, the demons, and get to work.”
In and of itself, that story would have all the makings of a successful comeback for a fighter that catapulted himself right back into title conversation. But London had more up its sleeve.
Doing his obligatory post-fight interviews backstage, Masvidal felt interrupted by another winning welterweight also doing press: Leon Edwards. Masvidal paused his media duties to confront Edwards. Words were exchanged. Punches were thrown. Edwards wore a cut under his eye, and the catchphrase “3-Piece and a Soda” was born.
“I got Fight of the Night, I got Knockout of the Night, and somebody’s trying to steal that shine in my interview? Those are things you don’t do, you know? Maybe that hooligan learned his lesson. Maybe not.”
It may not have been either man’s finest hour, but it’s tough to deny the extra attention it showered upon Masvidal on top of his win. He acknowledges his profile is suddenly even bigger.
“A lot of the casuals know me. It’s cool, I guess. Bigger popularity means bigger paychecks eventually. And that’s what I’m after. I want to fight the best. I want to get paid the biggest checks possible. It’s just funny how the universe works. I was just being myself and I got all this recognition for it. Some loudmouth hooligan tried to steal my shine, I put him in check, and the universe rewarded me for that, and let me be known to the masses. It was a very…non-thought-of thing, but it ended up being amazing. And those are usually the things that take off, when it’s just something from the heart.”
Edwards has promised revenge, and Masvidal doesn’t appear to hate the idea either. But for the time being, both men have other fights booked.
Masvidal, of course, has drawn Ben Askren, the former Olympian looking for his third title in three promotions. Askren has taken MMA social media by storm since getting traded to the UFC from ONE FC. For his part, “Gamebred” is having none of it.
“There’s guys that I would engage in a battle of wits with—that are funny, articulate—he’s not one of them. He just says volume…just throwing s*** up on the wall to see what sticks. He doesn’t say anything articulate and funny, and then he tries to be like a whack version of Dominick Cruz and be dismissive of what people say.”
It’s not that Masvidal is immune from a good back-and-forth; just Askren’s.
“I do like the trash talk. I do like the s*** talking, but when it’s with somebody worth doing it. Somebody that will say something funny at least every once in a while. This guy just says things, you know? Nobody’s laughing at him except him and his Dad-bod-following nation.
“I don’t need someone to be respectful; I just like people that come to fight. Ben doesn’t do either of these. Ben’s a confused individual, but I’m going to help him reach clarity July 6.”
Steve Latrell is a writer and producer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheUFSteve