UFC 287: Jorge Masvidal seeks to recapture the magic of 2019 after a ‘downward spiral’ that took him to a ‘very dark place’

Jorge Masvidal’s meteoric rise from average veteran to must-have superstar in 2019 is among the best one-year runs in mixed martial arts history. Masvidal knocked out three opponents in nine months, including the fastest recorded knockout in UFC history, culminating in her crowning as “the baddest mom in MMA” in the main event at Madison Square Garden. The occasion was even topped off with a ceremonial sash wrapped around her waist by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Masvidal’s fall from favor was almost as steep. “Gamebred” sprinted towards the welterweight title picture after his win over Nate Diaz, but the Miami native couldn’t keep up the momentum. Masvidal tolerated a short-notice decision loss to Kamaru Usman, now a former UFC welterweight champion. The result of their rematch was completely unpleasant. Usman planted a thunderous right hand on Masvidal and followed with the ground and the pound. It was the first time anyone had separated Masvidal from his conscience in 50 professional fights. The spiritual awakening that invigorated Masvidal in 2019 had quickly evaporated.

“It actually turned into a very difficult downward spiral for me,” Masvidal told CBS Sports ahead of his fight against Gilbert Burns at UFC 287 on Saturday. “I fought Kamaru Usman nine months ago. I felt his best punches after losing 20 pounds. I flew to Abu Dhabi. I was like, ‘This guy never hurt me .’ He just wasn’t born with it. Lo and behold, nine months later, he has unreal, supernatural power. Power isn’t something in the punching department that comes overnight. So it’s just very, very surreal… If I never fought Usman and then I got cut by him, that would be different. I’d be like, ‘Oh, you know, I didn’t really get it his power.’ But after having had five rounds with them, I just didn’t think he could ever be the guy to knock me out.

“If you look at my record since I started in MMA, I’ve faced killers in the stand-up department. to get into MMA. They were either into kickboxing or some more standard form of fighting than anything else. So never in a million years would I have thought this guy would have done it. So that sent me to a very dark place. But like a lot of times when we go to those dark places, you either don’t come out, or you come out with something more powerful, something bigger, better, stronger and unbreakable. So it took me a while. If eight months ago I would have spoken, I would have been a completely different person.”

Check out the full interview with Jorge Masvidal below.

Masvidal attempted to heal his injuries by punching out close friend-turned-bitter rival Colby Covington, but he looked lifeless in a one-sided decision loss. Three up and three down. The triad of violence that Masvidal delivered in 2019 was almost entirely obliterated by a trio of listless efforts against the welterweight elite. Masvidal was already shaking under the growing pressure of his professional shortcomings. He collapsed under the added weight of legal repercussions stemming from his alleged assault on Covington in March 2022.

“I had a lot of things out of my hands that I couldn’t control. I had three felonies. I had three trials. I also had three straight losses. So I just knew a lot of things had to change,” Masvidal said. “I had to give my mind, body, spirit and soul to the right place. I feel like I’m in the right place now. So come on April 8, I just want to treat everyone with violence that they’ve got a habit of getting from me. Give it all I’ve got, end Gilbert and move on.

“I gained a tremendous amount of weight. There were a lot of things going on in my life that were just toxic to an athlete. They weren’t helpful. They were detrimental to some degree. I feel like to have cut a lot of that over the last eight or nine months I’m in a much better place.

Masvidal returns to competition after a 13-month hiatus against Burns in the co-main event of UFC 287. It’s the longest layoff he’s had since the hiatus before his rise to fame in 2019. Much like his latest comeback, Masvidal’s underlying battle is with himself. It’s more imperative than ever that he performs on fight night on the heels of his first losing streak as the word “retirement” rings in his head.

“Long before the fight with Gilbert was signed, I was already preparing for someone. Who? What? I didn’t know, but I was just preparing, getting in shape and when the Gilbert fight came, it was It felt like the jet was already loaded with all the fuel I was going to need,” Masvidal said. It was one of the best camps of my entire career. I’ve always been very critical of myself. How many times have I been knocked out in training? How many times have I been shot during the week? How many body shots did I land? All these things. I really feel like it was one of my best training camps, period. Physically and technically.

“So now go out and have fun. Forget everything, clear my mind and do what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. This is crazy.”

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