When Jorge Masvidal envisions the story of his life turned into a movie, he expects the main event of UFC 251 when he challenges Kamaru Usman for the welterweight title in Abu Dhabi this weekend to serve as the film's final scene.
"I will have the championship and a lot more on Saturday," Masvidal said during Thursday's virtual media day ahead of his pay-per-view headlining role on Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates.
Masvidal (35-13), the UFC's ceremonial BMF (baddest motherf---er) champion, is so confident entering his first title bout despite accepting the fight on just six days' notice that he didn't hesitate for a second when asked a seemingly innocuous question: who would play him in the movie?
"Who plays me? I don't know, a lot of these Hollywood actors are a little wishy washy," Masvidal said "I wouldn't want these guys portraying me in any way, sense or form."
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To be fair, there really isn't anyone who could do the role justice mostly because Masvidal's story and character are so unique.
A first-generation American who was raised in Miami by his Cuban exile father and Peruvian mother, the 35-year-old Masvidal emerged from the same bareknuckle brawling videos filmed in south Florida backyards alongside Kimbo Slice to embark on a nearly 17-year pro career with enough dramatic twists and turns to fill a screenplay.
"It has been a roller coaster. It has been ups and downs, and downs and ups. But it has been an amazing journey," Masvidal said. "I love it, I love what I do and that's why I'm still here. I have double the years professionally than most of these guys do. That's not an opinion, that's more of a fact. So I got more KOs than a lot of these guys have victories because I love what I do."
Masvidal's rags-to-riches story within the UFC was well told in 2019 as he emerged from journeyman status after taking a full year off to record a trio of spectacular knockouts and finish with the unlikely honor of fighter of the year. Endorsements and crossover celebrity followed as Masvidal credited his time alone, cut off from the outside world while filming a reality show in the Dominican Republic, with finding a renewed fighting spirit focused on "baptizing" his opponents.
Now he prepares for the legitimization that comes with a chance at scaling the mountain top of his profession as UFC champion and, apropos to his journey getting here, has come with an outrageous number of extra challenges.
Masvidal originally twice turned down the fight while complaining about being offered short money. It led to a public battle with UFC brass over fighter pay until top contender Gilbert Burns pulled out of the main event following a positive COVID-19 test. This time, UFC came calling to Masvidal and the result was a new deal and "most" of what he desired financially.
So, in addition to accepting the fight on such short notice, Masvidal was forced to shed between 15-20 pounds in a single week, pass multiple coronavirus tests and endure quarantines in both Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi before weighing in on Friday. He also must get his body acclimated to fighting early morning local time to coincide the pay-per-view start with the prime evening window in the United States.
Despite all of the extra obstacles Masvidal is facing ahead of the biggest fight in his career, he's almost perfectly qualified to thrive within the chaos.
"The reason I'm here because I have taken opportunities like this in the past but I just didn't get credit for it. It went unseen," Masvidal said. "At the end of the day, it's a fight. It's not a math test or an SAT thing where I may not be the best at. It's what I have done since I was a child. I just have to believe in myself and give everything I got.
"I have been doing this 16 years professionally and it's going to be 17 in a couple months. What an exclamation point. They say this guy is the best in the world and he is the worst style possible for me out of the top 10 guys. It's all these things going against me before I get in that cage so leaving with that belt is going to be pretty cool."
Although he's not in ideal five-round shape, Masvidal has regularly been in the gym throughout the quarantine and specifically helped American Top Team stablemate Dustin Poirier prepare for Dan Hooker last month. Masvidal purposely avoided getting burnt out by overtraining when he didn't have a fight secured but believes his mind and heart are where it needs to be to win despite a full training camp.
What Masvidal believes helps his chances as a decided underdog on short notice is that he doesn't believe Usman (16-1) is nearly as good as the native of Nigeria says he is.
"My skill set is better than him on any day of the week so I just have to go out and prove it," Masvidal said. "Besides, him having 17 different personalties and me not knowing which one is going to show up to fight, I think he's weak minded."
Masvidal and Usman nearly came to blows during an appearance at Super Bowl media row in Miami in February and "Gamebred" insists the beef between them is very real. In fact, much more so than the build to his UFC record five-second knockout of Ben Askren last summer.
"Like I said in the Askren fight before and after, it's never personal and it's always business," Masvidal said. "But Usman, for a fact, has crossed the lines like no other competitor that I have fought. He has talked about things he is going to do to my butt hole. I don't know why he would talk about that. He has talked about my ethnicity and whether I'm this or that. He is telling people that I'm saying I'm God.
"This guy is just doing a lot of things that are going to cause him to get hurt in a violent way and if the referee trips on the way to stopping me and I get to get a couple of extra, extra punches, I wouldn't mind. They are going to be a little bit more than super necessary punches. I'm going to do something special and have to go into my fast forward speed and truly spend this guy to another plain."
Despite the obstacles facing Masvidal's impossible journey, he also has one more secret weapon to pair with his explosive ability to end a fight at anytime: momentum. No one is hotter from the standpoint of a single brand within UFC and no fighter has been able to raise their game to such a dangerous level over the past 12 months as him.
Will it be enough? The betting odds say no. But if we're being honest, they don't make movies about people who do anything but overcome when those around them say they can't.