Kevin Iole talks 1-on-1 with Jorge Masvidal ahead of his rematch with welterweight champion Kamaru Usman on April 24 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
KEVIN IOLE: Hey folks. I am Demonio Rojo, a.k.a. Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports. And it is Mask Day, so I am wearing my mask. And I am joined by the BMF, who is challenging for the UFC welterweight championship on April 24 in Jacksonville, Florida, against the champion, a rematch of a fight that did phenomenally big business on Abu Dhabi, Jorge Masvidal.
Jorge, how are you doing, my friend?
JORGE MASVIDAL: Very, very good. And I just want to say, thank you for keeping me safe, my brother, following the guidelines and all that.
KEVIN IOLE: [INAUDIBLE]
JORGE MASVIDAL: Thank you.
KEVIN IOLE: I want to keep myself safe here, so instead of me dying of heat prostration, we're gonna come out of that, and we will do our thing. It was a little rough there, but I wanted to follow the rules. So there we go.
First of all, I want to ask you. You had held out after your win over Nate Diaz for a while, and then you got the fight with Usman. Your contention was that you were a bigger star than what you were being paid.
You do about a $1,300,000. I think that was, if I'm not mistaken, the biggest pay-per-view of the year last year. Do you feel you made your point, and has the subsequent negotiation been easier for you?
JORGE MASVIDAL: I tell you what. If I had to took the first, original deal after that 1.3, I would have gotten it for table scraps. It's just not fair. And I say this not just for me, but all my brothers and sisters that are like, oh, I finally got to pay-per-view. It's not what you think.
The UFC has to open up those doors. They have to start giving bigger margins to the guys that are bringing in the pay-per-view. In the UFC, we say, well, look at what an undercard boxer will make, compared to one of our opening-card guys. Yeah, OK, got it. The opening-card guy in UFC makes a lot more than the boxer.
But when you get to the top of the levels, versus boxing, it's a huge disparity. I don't like it, and I wasn't gonna stand for it. And the only reason why they were able to give me the numbers that I wanted is because it was six days to go, and they needed somebody to save the main event. And put up the bat signal. I went out there and did as best as I could.
And I wouldn't have done it for any less, though, my brother. It's not like I was jumping at the opportunity, either. I was like, I want to get paid for what I do. I love what I do, but I'm not gonna do it for free or a discounted rate.
KEVIN IOLE: I don't know what your contract situation is now, but I imagine that that success put a little pressure on you from this standpoint. You lose the fight by a wide margin there. You came in with just a week's notice, roughly, so you didn't have the benefit of a full training camp, like Kamaru did.
But having said that, you do a $1,300,000 there. And now you lose this one, so you wonder, does the rematch do as well? And if it doesn't, does that take any of your leverage away?
JORGE MASVIDAL: It shows it. We sold out the fastest event and the biggest gate at the stadium that they've ever had. So obviously, there's already a big-- you know.
I think we'll do better in the pay-per-view. The people [INAUDIBLE] last time had to know in the back of their mind, but how ready could he be in six days' notice? 20 pounds to cut, six-day notice, has to fly across the world. I'm a [INAUDIBLE] supporter. I love this guy, how he fights, so I'm gonna shell out my hard-earned money and support this individual.
I think those same people will look at the facts and go, hold up. We got a slightly different fight on our hands now. I'm definitely gonna shell out more coin, and let's go, you know?
KEVIN IOLE: Kamaru has contended a number of times, including after his win over Gilbert Burns, that you, in fact, did have a full training camp. And you said that you were training all along because you knew that there was a likelihood that it would happen. I have heard his side of the story. Haven't heard your side of the story. I want to give you a chance to address his comments.
JORGE MASVIDAL: It's funny, because this idiot-- 'cause I can't think of another word to describe him-- I don't know which personality took over that David. He knows what I was doing and what I was not. When the UFC, six weeks away from the fight-- we couldn't come to numbers, and they're like, hey, we're moving on.
OK, cool. [BLEEP] F you guys, too, and whatever. And blah, blah, blah, blah. And I was upset, and I wasn't training.
Was at the gym, and I helped out a couple guys a couple times a week, yeah. But I wasn't training for a fight. It would have showed 'em my weight. As I stand right now, I'm 11 pounds over my weight. By next week, I'll be 7 or 8 pounds. That's just what I do every single time.
I was training, but not for a fight. I was training just to get bigger, stronger, lifting weights. There's different phases in the fight world. It's not always the same thing-- get in there and spar with somebody. So I definitely wasn't in training camp, fighting phase.
But I'm glad that he thinks so, though. He's so dumb that yes, brother, if that's what do you think, yes, OK, whatever you say, man.
KEVIN IOLE: Before we get into the specifics of the fight, I want to ask you a couple of things outside of MMA that were interesting. You were on the campaign trail for President Trump last year, and the Cuban vote certainly played a big role in President Trump winning Florida. You were out there campaigning.
And it reminded me, in 2010, the great boxer Manny Pacquiao came to Nevada when Senator Harry Reid was running. And he was trailing in the polls, and he got the Filipino vote out, and Senator Reid won by about 400 votes.
So fighters can do this, right? You helped President Trump win Florida. And I wonder if that gives you the interest in politics. When you're done, could you ever see yourself doing something like that-- being in the game and trying to serve in office in some way?
JORGE MASVIDAL: I would want to answer that question wholeheartedly and from my heart and give you the answer to that, but I would get assassinated. So I can't really say the answer to that, because there's a lot of people that didn't like that little me was able to sway so many opinions in a hemisphere that's not really of my own. It's a political hemisphere.
But being raised by my father and my family, I happen to know a lot of it since a young age. And I still don't know a lot of it. We still talk about it every other day. It's just something that I've been bred into.
So I'm not gonna say I'm a politician, but I do know. And everything that I said and I uttered out of my mouth I believe in 100%, still, to this day.
KEVIN IOLE: Interesting.
Isn't it amazing? I think it shows the growth of mixed martial arts, right? You had a bitter rival of yours-- a former friend, Colby Covington, went to the White House, and President Trump's son showed up at one of his fights. You were on the campaign trail. The president spoke about you in glowing terms. That's great for you.
JORGE MASVIDAL: [INAUDIBLE]
KEVIN IOLE: Go ahead.
JORGE MASVIDAL: The big difference is the Don himself showed up to my fight. I just wanted to reiterate that. President Trump showed up at my fight. So there's a difference between me and that other guy you just mentioned, that fragile guy.
KEVIN IOLE: And I guess the thing I was gonna say was, do you think that that's indicative of the growth of this sport? Could you have imagined in 2005, when you were first starting fighting, or 2004 election, a president bothering to mess with the UFC?
JORGE MASVIDAL: I pictured a lot of things for my sport. Since the first day I saw it, I was paralyzed. Wow, I love it. The same thing happened when I saw boxing, when I saw wrestling, but UFC just froze me. It left me paralyzed.
So I always thought fighting is very impactful. I'd be on my way to a sporting event, and a fight breaks out in the parking lot. It doesn't matter you got season tickets or what. Everybody's stopping and looking at this fight. Whether they like it or not, you're just drawn to it. It's a human thing.
So I always thought, the more exposure it gets, the bigger it'll get. And along the way, I knew it would absorb whoever's watching, whether it was politicians, actors, actresses. We're humans, and people might not want to know this, but we're all fighters inside.
Just some people forget about that, but we've been fighting our whole lives since we were born. It's evolution. It's the reason we're here. We had to fight through the darkness to get to the light, and all this crazy things that go into it. So that fighting is a primal thing in all of us.
I think maybe not yet, but it's gonna be one of the biggest sports in the world, period. You don't need 25 guys, all with bats and ball. You could just find a piece of grass and start practicing and training. So I believe fighting is gonna be in the top two or three sports of the world at some point, where it's just gonna be steady.
KEVIN IOLE: I'll just say this. When you look at boxing, you watch two guys fighting, and they're throwing punches. It's easy to understand what's going on. Sometimes, in the grappling of MMA, it's difficult for people who haven't watched it before to understand.
So I think, now, one of the reasons I'm bullish on the future of MMA is for that very reason. Now, for 15 or 20 years, you've had people learn about grappling. And they're having children, and their children are gonna come up, and they just learn it from their parents right off the bat.
So to me, it seems like MMA will have that. And that next generation, as big as it is now, maybe even explode beyond that.
JORGE MASVIDAL: For a fact. Six, seven years ago, it didn't used to happen as much. A dad will be with his kid. Oh, that's the guy that we were watching TV, and the kid will be like, oh, hey, what's up? You can see it's kind of forced.
Nowadays, I have 12- and 13-year-olds running up to me with a pen and paper. They're like, man, I've seen your fights since 2009. And I'm like, you're 13 years old. What do you mean you've seen me fight? And like, no, I've been watching all your-- it's crazy. It's gotten different.
And when I see those kids, I see myself, 'cause that was the same way that I was. I was just absorbed. I didn't care about trading cards of any other team or sport. I just wanted to know about those fighters, what they were doing, how they did it. That's all that I was invested in.
And I think that is going full circle, but a lot harder and faster now, because a lot more eyeballs are on it. And like you said, a lot of parents watch it. Kids are right there, too. They're gonna immediately get absorbed by that more.
KEVIN IOLE: It's great to make-- and you got your money for the last fight. You got it for this fight. But the thing to me is making the money, getting endorsements, and all that.
And do you feel like-- are you cashing in on the success you've had late in your career, the BMF, fighting for the title, now coming back at another championship? Are you seeing that difference? Are you getting endorsements? Are there gonna be products where you can make money without having to get kicked and punched in the head?
JORGE MASVIDAL: Definitely, definitely. And I wish it was like this for all my brothers and sisters in the sport. There's very few that get to monetize on that.
And it wasn't easy. 16 years, I was breaking people's faces-- ex-world champions and top-five guys in the world. And man, it was not too long ago that I couldn't get a sponsor to give me $1,000 a month to help me out for the training camp.
And I never gave up. I never lost faith in myself. I lost faith in the system and in certain things, but I never lost faith in myself. I always knew I'm gonna get to where I need to be one way or another. So now that I'm here--
KEVIN IOLE: Everybody has a different interpretation of what rich is, but do you consider yourself a rich guy now?
JORGE MASVIDAL: I'll tell you this much. If I never fight again, my kids' kids are well taken care of.
KEVIN IOLE: That's awesome. That is what we like to hear.
JORGE MASVIDAL: Yes, sir. [INAUDIBLE]
KEVIN IOLE: Let's talk about this fight.
JORGE MASVIDAL: I wish it would be like this, though, all across the board. I hate having to hear stories that somebody fought 15, 16 years, and they have nothing to show for it but broken teeth and cauliflower ear, and that's it. Now they have to get a nine-to-five job while you get XYZ Company made millions upon millions of dollars, and they're only gonna continue to make millions of dollars.
And even if that one individual didn't make millions of dollars, it led to them making millions and millions of dollars. Just like in the NFL, when those guys weren't getting paid, and then we're seeing CTE after CTE after CTE, like in the '70s and '80s.
And they started-- hey, man, these guys gotta get freakin' paid, man. It's the same thing. Is it gonna happen? I hope it happens in my time-- that I see not just me, but all my brothers and sisters getting what they deserve in this sport.
KEVIN IOLE: You have become a popular fighter 'cause you're charismatic outside the ring. But obviously, it's inside the ring where you're a fierce guy, and you fight the kind of fights people like. Kamaru Usman is getting some comparisons. His manager, Ali Abdelaziz, was arguing with me the other day, telling me that he has surpassed George St. Pierre as the greatest welterweight of all time.
And so I wonder how you, first of all, look at Kamaru. Ali also said this, and I want to get your take on it. He said, Kamaru Usman is a great fighter. George Masvidal is a good fighter. And there's a massive difference between great and good.
And so, let's start there. How do you respond to his side saying you're good and Kamaru's great?
JORGE MASVIDAL: Whose manager, again?
KEVIN IOLE: The champ's. Kamaru's.
JORGE MASVIDAL: Exactly. Of course he's gonna say and do a lot of ass-kissing for his client. I'll tell you one thing, sir. You could, right away, dissect that statement.
If Kamaru takes the fight against me on six-day notice with 20 pounds to cut, I finish him in the first or second round. That's a great fighter. He doesn't go to a decision with me, and he [BLEEP] knows that for [INAUDIBLE]. That's why he was hugging me for dear life.
Was I a great fighter that night? Nope, I was not a great fighter that night. Will I be a great fighter on April 24 and show the vast difference between me and "hug every man that I've ever seen" Kamaru Usman? Yeah. I'm gonna show the world the difference between good and great.
KEVIN IOLE: In your opinion, do you fight the same [INAUDIBLE] just that you're in better condition, or are there technical things that you have to change because you watch the tape and look at what happened in the fight?
JORGE MASVIDAL: A couple of technical things and a couple of physical things. Usually, I cut 7 to 9 pounds on fight week. That wasn't the case last time. No excuses. I gave it my all. I was missing a little thing here, missing a little thing there.
As I stand right now, I got about 11 pounds to go. It's a different fuel tank. It's a different energy system. I'm not investing everything I have to run through this desert and then going to a fight. Not at all. I'm just gonna casually show up, make weight, and break this guy's face.
KEVIN IOLE: As you go down-- you're 36, gonna be 37 this year, so you're on the backstretch of your MMA career. I know you want to-- what are the goals between now and the time you walk away from the sport? Are their accomplishments in the cage you want to get? Is it changing the financial structure? Is there anything you can point to and say, this is my goal from now until I'm done with fighting?
JORGE MASVIDAL: I took a year hiatus. When I came back, I sat down with my team, my manager, everybody that's in charge of what I've been doing for the last 12 years. We have the same team, a very small team.
I had goals. I wrote 'em down. I told these guys, I want to do this. I want to do that, one of them being Ben Askren getting eliminated in five or under, and things like that, getting Knockout of the Year, Fighter of the Year. Those are things that I had in my booklet. Cross them off. Done That's in the past already.
I can tell you this much. Not to give the exact time. Do I know the exact time when I'll be walking away? There's a lot of things I still have to cross a list off in the professional side, in the cage.
There's a lot of accomplishments that still want to do. I won't tell you, because then it'll [INAUDIBLE]. But there's a lot of things that I have written out that I want to do that are rather interesting, and I'm gonna get 'em done one way or another. And if I don't get 'em done--
KEVIN IOLE: So you'll share that with us when you're done and say, OK, here's what I wrote down at that time, and here's what I crossed off the list?
JORGE MASVIDAL: As I go fight by fight, and those things get accomplished, I'll-- hey, this was part of the plan. There's a couple of interesting things in there, so I want to get 'em done.
KEVIN IOLE: So you mentioned that if Kamaru took the fight with six days' notice and had to cut 20 pounds in five days, really, 'cause the weight-in, you would knock him out in the first round. Let's finish up on this. What do you do in this fight? How do you win this fight? What is the ending gonna look like?
JORGE MASVIDAL: It's gonna be violent. It's gonna be bloody. He's gonna be unconscious for a rather long time. People are gonna be coming in and out to check on him, different doctors. We're gonna be celebrating. It's gonna end violent, man. Disowning anything I've seen is that this guy's unconscious, and for a long time.
And it's nothing personal. As much as the guy talks crap, I don't hate him. It's what I have to do. Kobe Bryant went out there and put 50 points on your face. You're talking about Kobe, going, man, that guy's a beast. Michael Jordan did what he did.
Those guys-- they separate themselves from the pack. In my sport, how you separate yourself from the pack is by hurting somebody as much as possible, just leaving this guy in a pool of his own blood and unconscious for a really long time. That's what the world wants to see. That's what the people want to see. That's what everybody that's shelling out their hard-earned money, their coin, wants to see, and that's all that I try to bring every single time I step into the cage, is put 100% of my being, my essence into delivering that product.
KEVIN IOLE: That is the super necessary part of it, the 100% and seeing the best.
Jorge Masvidal, the UFC's BMF, on April 24 against Kamaru Usman for the welterweight championship live on pay-per-view.
Jorge, appreciate you, brother. It's the Red Demon, Kevin Iole. I am out.
JORGE MASVIDAL: Kevin, you the man, bro. See you soon, man.