UFC Fight Island: Jorge Masvidal turns down chance to headline UFC 251 against Kamaru Usman

American says he was called by president Dana White night before announcement

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Welterweight contender Jorge Masvidal says the UFC made a last-gasp attempt to book him for the headline bout with Kamaru Usman at next month’s UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi, before opting for Gilbert Burns.

Masvidal, one of the most popular fighters in the sport, was expected to face the welterweight champion earlier this year before the coronavirus crisis struck, and has lately been involved in a pay dispute with the promotion.

Usman, unbeaten in his 10 UFC appearances, will instead defend his welterweight title against in-form Brazilian Burns at the top of the card on Yas Island on July 11, in the first of four events on Fight Island.

Masvidal, meanwhile, has been vocal in his criticism of the UFC for what he considers to be the unfair treatment of its athletes, relating to finances.

Dana White, the promotion's president, responded that he feels Masvidal should honour the terms of his eight-fight deal, of which he reportedly has seven bouts remaining.

The American, whose professional mixed martial arts record stands at 35-13, last fought at UFC 244 in November, where he defeated Nate Diaz.

Masvidal says he was given the opportunity to take on Usman in the UAE shortly before Burns was signed. ESPN have reported he was offered the same money as he made against Diaz.

Taking to social media late on Sunday, Masvidal said: “I feel bad for Dana. He is just a promoter but he isn’t doing the deals with us.

“I already explained why I signed a new deal. It’s either take it or leave it and not get paid. I would’ve signed another deal if it was done in good faith.

"He called me night before he wants to announce and tell me take or it leave it. That’s not negotiating, that’s strong-arming.”

Usman-Burns headlines the UFC's return to Abu Dhabi, with the emirate last week announced as host of the inaugural Fight Island.

UFC 251 will feature three world title bouts, and will be followed by events on July 15, 18 and 25. As of yet, the venue for the fight festival has not been confirmed, although Yas Forum has been mooted.