Jorge Masvidal’s stunning win in the UFC London main event at the weekend was the culmination of a life spent throwing fists, but long before his professional journey took him to the Octagon, it began on the streets of Florida.
Moments after silencing London’s O2 Arena with the most devastating knockout of his 16-year, 46-fight career last Saturday night, Jorge Masvidal offered the most authentic example of who he is as a fighter.
With replays of his stunning second-round finish of Darren Till in front of the Englishman’s expectant home crowd still being played on big screens within the cavernous arena, Masvidal broke off from a live interview with ESPN to confront another welterweight, Leon Edwards, as the Englishman heckled him from off-camera.
Edwards, who picked up the biggest win of his own career an hour earlier against Gunnar Nelson, had been campaigning for a fight with the winner of the main event. Darren Till, the presumed winner in Edwards’ and most analysts’ predictions in advance of the main event, was in his sights. It was to be a battle of England’s two best welterweights, a showcase of UK mixed martial arts.
Masvidal’s left hand, though, threw a significant spanner in those works.
So, with a new foe to contend with, Edwards hurled a challenge in Masvidal’s direction. A fight on July 6 in Las Vegas during the UFC’s ‘International Fight Week’ was the target, and the subject of Edwards’ interjection. Some reports suggest that the Englishman called him a ‘p*ssy.’
Masvidal, though, doesn’t take kindly to interruptions such as this. Breaking off from his live interview, he ambled in the direction of Edwards, hands behind his back in a non-aggressive pose. Then, as Masvidal would later attest, Edwards raised his guard into a fighting pose – the only signal needed by the American to escalate matters.
A flurry of backstage strikes followed, later described by Masvidal as a “three piece and a soda,” before the two were separated by security. The entire incident was captured live on the UFC broadcast and, for the second time in a matter of minutes, a clip of Jorge Masvidal landing blows on an English fighter was winging its way around the globe.
While some decried the unprofessional aspect of the incident, for most it was the truest representation of who Jorge Masvidal is and what he brings to the fight game.
“It’s just stupid, it’s something that happened,” Masvidal said on Monday on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show. “I wish in some way I could control myself, but I can’t let someone disrespect me. This guy has been attacking me on social media, talking crap all of the time.”
That is Jorge Masvidal’s modus operandi encapsulated. It is sometimes said that some people learn to fight and others are born with the instinct and, if that’s the case, Masvidal very much falls into the latter category.
Masvidal cut his teeth in the backyards and abandoned industrial zones in his home state of Florida, participating in street brawls alongside the likes of famed brawler Kimbo Slice. One of these fights, in which Masvidal fights someone simply named ‘Ray,’ has been archived on YouTube, with millions of views still counting.
He has since described these backyard, bare-knuckle brawls as nothing but sport. He had or has no animosity towards Ray whatsoever and, according to recent tweets, the pair are still in –at least occasional– contact.
Kimbo Slice went on to fight for both the UFC and Bellator, though he sadly passed away in 2016, leaving Masvidal standing alone as the only character from those old VHS tapes currently earning his keep at the top level of prizefighting.
For Masvidal, not a whole lot has changed. His skills have evolved with him, of course, but motivations remain the same. He enjoys fighting and will do so with a smile on his face and respectful words afterwards, if you offer respect of course.
The flip side of that coin, as Leon Edwards learned on Saturday night? Talk s**t, get hit.