Gilbert Burns’ withdrawal from UFC 251 because of coronavirus has led to the match up UFC fans wanted all along – Jorge Masvidal v Kamaru Usman for the welterweight championship.
According to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, negotiations for the bout are done and both fighters have agreed to terms to compete on Sunday (AEST) at UFC 251 on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
It’s a huge turn of events for Masvidal, considering he was engaged in a spat with the company over money which resulted in Burns being given a shot at Usman’s title ahead of him.
However, there are still several hurdles to clear with both fighters undergoing a range of tests before they can head out to Abu Dhabi.
Usman and Masivdal are both in Las Vegas and will check in to the host hotel, take a coronavirus test and then quarantine while awaiting the results.
If they pass the test, they’ll be cleared to fly to the UAE, most likely tomorrow. The fight will be cancelled if either man tests positive leaving the company with more scheduling issues.
For months, Masvidal and the UFC were at odds over money to make the Usman fight a reality.
In a wide-ranging interview with ESPN, the Miami native ripped the company for its negotiating tactics and called for fighters to unionise over its split in revenue with the UFC.
In turn, the UFC turned its back on Masvidal and gave the title fight to Burns, who recently beat former champion Tyron Woodley.
One would think Masvidal’s relationship with the company was strained beyond repair, but once Burns was forced off the card late last week, the Cuban-American star firmed as the only logical choice for Dana White.
Usman v Masvidal was part of the original plan for UFC 251 and now the grudge match can officially take place if all the logistical pieces fall into place.
Both men have long detested one another with the duo getting into a shouting match at the Super Bowl in Miami earlier this year.
Both men will have to pass three more coronavirus tests before the fight as will all the fighters competing in Abu Dhabi this month.
Australian Alexander Volkanovski’s rematch with Max Holloway will likely stay as the co-main event if Usman and Masvidal pass all their tests.
The Aussie was tipped to headline the card once Burns was ruled out but in a blow for the featherweight champion, Masvidal’s inclusion would more than likely see his bout be the second-last of the night.