UFC 251: Jorge Masvidal promises he'll not quit until he becomes champion despite Abu Dhabi defeat

American stepped in at short notice and was found wanting against Kamaru Usman

Jorge Masvidal said he "let a lot of people down" in his title defeat at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, but vowed not quit the sport until he finally becomes champion.

The hugely popular American, 35, was defeated comfortably by welterweight title-holder Kamaru Usman in the headline bout in the opener to Fight Island at Flash Forum. Dominating throughout, the champion used his superior wrestling and conditioning to take the contest 50-45, 50-45, 49-46.

However, Masvidal was contesting his first world championship bout on only six days' notice having agreed to the fight on Monday following Gilbert Burns' withdrawal. The Brazilian had tested positive for Covid-19.

Masvidal therefore took the bout at the 11th hour, and had to cut 20 pounds just to make weight.

Speaking after his loss, he conceded the weight cut was “tough”, but said: “I hate coming up short. I’m not going to sit here and make excuses. He was the better man tonight. There were some areas where I didn’t give him enough credit and there was some areas I felt with a better training camp I could definitely surpass him.

“I made a lot of mistakes. I tried to fight in spots where I didn’t think my gas tank was the greatest. Right when I would get loose he would clinch me up and take it right back into his world. So, I’m not going to take anything away from him. He won fair and square.

"I will do whatever it takes to get back in front of that man and compete again and get my hand raised. I just feel like I let a lot of people down."

Masvidal, whose professional record now stands at 35-14, confirmed that he wants another attempt at becoming the first man in the UFC to defeat Usman. Thus far, the Nigeria-born athlete has won all 12 of his appearances, with an overall MMA record of 17-1.

Whether that’s a quick turnaround against Usman remains to be seen. Masvidal said he would first come to terms with the loss, then discuss his options going forward.

“Definitely going to sit back and evaluate the next one,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll be coming back at the end of the year or early next year. I’m going to sit down with my management and figure it out.

"But whoever it is next year I just want to come back and get a stoppage and be in peak shape, have a six-pack when I’m out there and just be right.”

Understandably, though, given the circumstances leading up to Sunday’s bout, Masvidal is determined for a shot at redemption.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JULY 12: In this handout image provided by UFC, (L-R) Kamaru Usman of Nigeria kicks Jorge Masvidal in their UFC welterweight championship fight during the UFC 251 event at Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on July 12, 2020 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

“We’ll do it again,” he said. “I just can’t wait. They’ll put an opponent in front of me and I’ll take care of business and I’m going to come back better than ever. I’m not going to disappear from the sport without this belt being wrapped around my waist. One way or another.

"It’s not my best performance tonight, but everyone gets to see the dog in me and that dog doesn’t shut up or roll over for nobody.”

There had for some time been bad blood between Masvidal and Usman, but the fighters shared an embrace inside the octagon after the decision was announced.

"The competitor in me, I want to take everybody's head off," Masvidal said. "I want to take his off even more now that he beat me. But I just feel like, especially me and him, we don't have to promote the next fight like that; we don't have to talk about each other's religions or ethnicities.

"He said some things that weren't necessary and I’m sure I said some things that probably wasn't the best. I think about the future generations, you don't have to promote fights like that to sell pay-per-views; I heard this card did great anyway. We'll do it again.

"I know I could do more. It’s no excuse: once you sign that dotted line... or you shouldn’t sign that dotted line if you weren’t in the best shape ever to compete for a world title.

"I just feel like that. I just feel I should’ve been in overall better shape. It’s just a matter of time before I get back in there.”