Masvidal (35-16 MMA, 12-9 UFC) will return from a 13-month hiatus on April 8 when he meets Gilbert Burns (21-5 MMA, 14-5 UFC) in the co-main event. It’s a massive fight for the welterweight division, but in particular for “Gamebred,” who is on a three-fight losing skid in and in desparate need of a victory.
The last time Masvidal had his hand raised in the octagon was when he beat Nate Diaz for the “BMF” title at UFC 244 in November 2019, but since then he’s suffered back-to-back title-fight losses to Kamaru Usman, then was outworked to a decision in his grudge match with Colby Covington.
Additionally, Masvidal’s recent time off from competition has seen him embroiled in a legal situation. He allegedly pulled a blindside attack on former teammate-turned-rival Covington days after their bout, and the case is still ongoing.
Nevertheless, Masvidal is gearing up for a comeback, and at 38, UFC Hall of Famer and UFC analyst Cormier sees the showdown with Burns as absolutely pivotal.
“It was hard for Masvidal to take this fight when in reality, I’ve long said it’s the best fight for him to get back to where he’s trying to go in the short-term,” Cormier said on his YouTube channel. “Because if you beat Gilbert and you’re Jorge Masvidal with his star power, you’re right back in the mix. But you can’t lose if you’re Jorge. You’ve got to win. You’ve got to get this one. For as bad as the decision loss to Kamaru Usman in the first one, the knockout in the second one, then the decision loss to Colby Covington, you lose to Gilbert Burns and now you’ve lost to three of the top four of five fighters in the world.
“I don’t know if you come back from that at an advanced age in fighting. Will his star power be hurt? I don’t think so. People love Jorge Masvidal. But this is a must-win situation for ‘Gamebred.’ He’s got to get it done.”
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For Masvidal, the difference between winning and losing in this particular situation is significant. A four-fight losing skid for any MMA fighter is detrimental to their career stability, even if the competition is as high-level as it gets.
If Masvidal can find a way to emerge victorious, though, then Cormier thinks he could vault all the way into a championship opportunity.
The 170-pound title is on the line just weeks prior to UFC 287, when Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman have their trilogy bout in the main event of UFC 286 on March 18 in London.
There is a well-documented history and beef between Masvidal and Edwards stemming back to March 2019 when Masvidal attacked Edwards backstage at an event in London. If both men win their respective bouts it would be a layup to pit them against one another.
“If he does (win), he goes on the short list, especially with the timing of that fight being a month after Usman and Leon Edwards in the rematch,” Cormier said. “Leon Edwards wins and then ‘Gamebred’ wins, they will fight for the championship. Belal Muhammad may hate this, but if Leon wins and Masvidal wins that’s going to be the championship fight because there’s so much history between the two that you cannot help but fall victim to that desire to see it pay off, like in wrestling. It’s the story, it’s the build, it’s the payoff. We never got the payoff between Masvidal and Leon Edwards.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 287.