Jorge Masvidal will step in to fight Kamaru Usman for the welterweight championship in the main event of UFC 251, the promotion announced late Sunday night.
A series of events over the weekend led to the fight, which will headline the first UFC card at the so-called “Fight Island” facility on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
Brother Says Burns Tested Positive for COVID-19
The UFC initially scheduled Gilbert Burns to challenge for Usman’s title next weekend. However, Burns tweeted on Saturday to say that he’s “not feeling well,” and multiple media outlets confirmed that Burns will no longer fight on July 11.
MMA Fighting spoke to Burns’ brother, Herbert Burns, who said that Gilbert is out of the Yas Island event due to a positive COVID-19 test.
“He was woke up in the morning [on Friday], the UFC said they were going to his room to test him again,” Herbert Burns told MMA Fighting. “My test result came back negative a bit later, at around 2 pm. And then the UFC came and said his first test came back positive, and so did [training partner Vagner Rocha’s].”
With Burns out, the UFC had little time to salvage its main event. But on Sunday, a lifeline emerged. Masvidal told ESPN that he ended his tense negotiations with the UFC and signed a multifight contract, allowing him to step into the title fight.
Masvidal Steps in as Underdog vs. Usman
Masvidal said that while he didn’t get everything he wanted from the UFC, the promotion met most of his demands.
“I can understand you don’t want to give me that much on the guaranteed,” Masvidal told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. “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.”
The UFC officially announced the fight late Sunday night, after Masvidal passed his coronavirus test.
Kamaru Usman (16-1) hasn’t lost since the second fight of his career, back in 2013. Burns (19-3) ranks as the No. 1 contender in the UFC welterweight division, but the No. 3 ranked Masvidal (35-13) is also a worthy contender. Masvidal last competed in November, when he beat Nate Diaz for the special “BMF” belt the UFC created for that fight.
FanDuel Sportsbook lists Usman as a -300 favorite over Masvidal (+230) at UFC 251.
MMA World Mourns Death of Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov
Ali Abdelaziz, manager of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, confirmed Friday that Khabib’s father Abdulmanap passed away last week. The elder Nurmagomedov had been in a Moscow hospital since May after he contracted COVID-19. The coronavirus caused complications related to a pre-existing condition. Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov underwent heart surgery and doctors placed him into a medically induced coma.
Conor McGregor, a longtime rival of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s, tweeted his condolences on Friday.
The loss of a father, a coach, and a dedicated supporter of the sport. Condolences and rest in peace Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) July 3, 2020
“The loss of a father, a coach, and a dedicated supporter of the sport,” McGregor wrote. “Condolences and rest in peace Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov.”