What’s a fan to do when a cult favorite breaks big? That’s the story of Jorge Masvidal, the UFC perennial contender and holder of its first “Baddest Mother F—er” belt. The proud Cubano and native Miamian was an underground legend as a bare-knuckle boxing favorite years before he transitioned to MMA, and unlike others, he’s only got better. After a couple recent losses, he’s now fallen out of the UFC’s top five for the welterweight division, but if his career has proven anything, it’s only a matter of time before he once again headlines a UFC card.
Masvidal rose from the YouTube primordial ooze in the early Aughts through another legendary online fighter: Kimbo Slice. Slice, who passed away in 2016 after achieving his own noteworthy mixed martial arts success, had become notorious beating the hell out of guys you’d never want to meet in a dark alley. But even in his role as the bogeyman’s bogeyman, Slice could only do so much, so, with pornographer “Icey” Mike Imber, the two began to scale up what had been a one-man show. The pair began recruiting fighters to fill out the backyard cards like traditional promotions would do. In a 2020 documentary through the UFC, Masvidal says he was in a fast-food drive through when he got a call from Slice asking if he wanted to fight in a couple of hours. “I never thought it would generate the millions and millions of view,” he says. “I was just some ‘Spic from Miami.”
Far from a flash in the pan, Masvidal continued to rise in prominence even after he left the backyards behind, signing a contract in 2009 with Bellator and fighting three times, two of which were wins, before moving on. By the early 2010s, he was with Strikeforce, fighting with greater and greater regularity, though notching wins entirely through decision. But it was his move to the UFC, with its marketing muscle behind him, that would elevate him to levels far above anything he had previously experienced.
Like a high school freshman, Masvidal, who signed with the promotion in 2013, spent the early part of his UFC career winning more than he was losing, but otherwise achieving little. It was following a 16-month layoff, in early 2019, that the legend of “Gamebred” started to rise. Against English striking specialist Darren Till in the latter’s hometown of London, Masvidal rallied from a round-one knockdown to sleep Till in round 2 via two winging lefts. Speaking with Joe Rogan on Experience, Masvidal talked about the combo that won him the fight being pulled off a shelf and dusted off, previously having been thrown thousands of time in training and brought into the fight especially. “I go, man, he’s a southpaw,” he recalled, expressing skepticism to his coach. “So we started doing it, and boom. Money.”
After stopping a wunderkind in his tracks, Masvidal went from strength to strength to “Funky” Ben Askren. Anyone with a nominal amount of pop-culture awareness can tell you how that one ended up. After what seemed like months of trash talk between the two (in April, three months before the fight, Masvidal told Joe Rogan, “I want to break his f— face”), the fight was over in five seconds, a GIF-able flying knee knockout that stands — and will likely stand for years to come — as the fastest knockout in UFC history. Its international ubiquity only fueled the legend of Gamebred, which had largely been marked as a workman-like effort.
And so begins Masvidal’s legendary status. With a shiny, new eight-fight contract under his belt, in 2019 he faced another cult favorite, Nate Diaz. Diaz, with older brother Nick, had already found success with his own brand of rags-to-riches fight excellence, even deploying the family’s own technique, the Stockton Slap, to great effect. Diaz the younger had already upset an in-form Conor McGregor with 11 days’ notice in 2016 and was as talented as Masvidal in trash talk. The two would meet at UFC 244 in November 2019, and while the result, deemed a TKO after the third round due to unstoppable bleeding from the long scarred-over eyes of Diaz, would be anticlimactic, it means that as of this writing, Masvidal lays official claim to the title of Baddest Mother F—er, abbreviated BMF, in the UFC. He’s even got the custom-made belt to prove it.
Recent years have given Masvidal fans little to be excited about. A late addition to a title match in 2020, he lost via unanimous decision to Nigerian Kamaru Usman. One might excuse this, as Masvidal joined the card after a reported six days’ notice once the previous fighter, Gilbert Burns, tested positive for COVID-19. But Masvidal’s loss wasn’t easy to dismiss after the two ran the title fight back in April 2021 at UFC 261. Masvidal was again stopped, although this time in a more dramatic fashion, being knocked out in Round 2 and bearing the ignominious mark of his first knockout in the UFC.
The way forward for Masvidal is uncertain. Coming off two losses isn’t great, and on Tuesday, May 11, with the UFC’s latest update to its division rankings, he fell out of the welterweight top five down to seventh, suggesting that his next fight will be an uphill battle to regain position.
Despite his widespread notoriety, fight fans don’t seem to grow disillusioned with “Gamebred” Jorge Masvidal. He remains one of the UFC’s most popular fighters, maintains a robust social media presence, and has expanded into numerous areas, including expanding a long-established mezcal company, El Recuerdo, into the U.S. in 2020. His cup runneth over and shows no signs of ebbing.
Whatever Masvidal’s next step may be, for now, the goal is clear: to resume training and get ready for the next battle. “Back to work,” he wrote on Instagram in mid-May. A rolling stone gathers no moss.
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