One of the major obstacles in getting Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal in the octagon Saturday has been cleared.
Masvidal (35-13 MMA, 12-6 UFC), who agreed to challenge Usman (16-1 MMA, 11-0 UFC) for the welterweight title on six days’ notice in a crazy turn of events after Gilbert Burns was ruled out of the UFC 251 headliner, passed his initial COVID-19 test late Sunday.
As a result, the UFC officially announced the championship bout, which airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass from Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.
Masvidal’s negative test result allows him to travel from Las Vegas to Abu Dhabi. According to ESPN, Masvidal will take a private plane booked by his First Round Management team, while Usman is expected to take the promotion’s charter flight scheduled to leave Monday evening from Las Vegas.
Although the UFC now has thrown its promotional support behind the matchup, hurdles still remain.
Once Usman and Masvidal arrive in Abu Dhabi, they will be immediately tested again before entering a mandatory 48-hour self-isolation period. If everyone involved produces negative tests, coronavirus restrictions will not stand in the way of the matchup taking place.
“Them and everyone around them has to test negative for the coronavirus, and then we get on a plane, and we fly to Abu Dhabi, and we have to continue to test negative for the coronavirus for the fight to happen,” UFC president Dana White said on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
The booking of Usman vs. Masvidal is one of the great late-notice replacement workings in UFC history. It seemed Masvidal was further on the outs with White and Co. than ever before over the past month. Burns’ withdrawal, however, presented a situation that appeared to benefit everyone involved.
“If you look at the 20-year history (of the UFC), this kind of stuff happens,” White said. “When you get into negotiations for fights, these things happen. Gilbert Burns has been on a tear and was consistently fighting and wanted to continue to fight and was the number one contender, so Gilbert Burns made sense.
“Obviously Masvidal has become a massive star over the last year-and-a-half, and that’s the fight that people want to see. So when Burns fell out, we got in a room and figured Masvidal out.”