UFC's King of Swag: How Jorge Masvidal Launched Himself into the Stratosphere

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 27, 2020

UFC's King of Swag: How Jorge Masvidal Launched Himself into the Stratosphere

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    Behold, the UFC's BMF Swag King, Jorge Masvidal.
    Behold, the UFC's BMF Swag King, Jorge Masvidal.Mike Roach/Getty Images

    Jorge Masvidal had a big decision to make.

    Because by the time he lost consecutive fights in 2017, Masvidal had already done so much in his career. 

    One might even argue that this person who had climbed his way out of poverty, who had already amazingly parlayed $200 paydays earned in backyard streetfights into a full-fledged professional fighting career for the largest and best MMA promotional company on the entire planet, had reached his full potential. 

    People had done less with more, after all, so Masvidal would have been well within his rights as a human being to simply rest on those exceptional laurels. 

    Instead, though, Masvidal rested in a different way. He retooled and reemerged in 2019 to launch his career into the highest realms of MMA superstardom. 

    Masvidal became the UFC's King of Swag last year, so, of course, I wanted to ask him how he did it.

    "How do you be like Jorge?" Masvidal repeated my question back to me. 

    And here's what the 35-year-old from Miami told me the way only "Gamebred" could, and maybe how you might be able to take the same lessons he learned into your own life, too.

The Getaway

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    Masvidal learned valuable lessons from his losses in 2017.
    Masvidal learned valuable lessons from his losses in 2017.Josh Hedges/Getty Images

    To get back, Masvidal first had to get away from it all. 

    "Well, you got to book yourself a vacation to some isolation, my brother," Masvidal said. "That'd be first."

    It may seem counterintuitive to those stuck in the buckle down sticktoitiveness that has pervaded the American culture for the last century or so, but the first thing Masvidal said he had to do was to take a break. 

    Losing to arguably the best MMA grappler of the last decade Demian Maia via split decision in May 2017 was one thing, but suffering a unanimous decision loss to striker Stephen Thompson at UFC 217 six months later was something altogether different. 

    Thompson, after all, employs but one method of winning fights, his incredible kickboxing skills that a predominantly excellent striker like Masvidal would have to be able to overcome if he was to become a world champion.

    But Thompson punched and kicked his way from long-distance for the points win, and Masvidal was left without a foreseeable road to the title. 

    That fight, in particular, revealed Masvidal's greatest assets as a fighter, his toughness and excellent countering ability, but also showed where the fighter had some opportunities to grow.

    Masvidal said he needed time to reflect on those things before he moved forward with his career, so that's exactly what he took time to do. Masvidal said he got away from everybody that might distract him, and he means everybody

    He said he needed time to ponder where he had been, where he wanted to go and how best for him to get from one place to the other. 

    There was only one way to do that. 

Total Isolation

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    Masvidal found the answers within himself and his experiences.
    Masvidal found the answers within himself and his experiences.James Chance/Getty Images

    Masvidal said completely isolating himself was the only way he could easily tap into the place he wanted to go inside his mind. 

    "Because even those close to you can just make you throw off the signal," Masvidal said.

    Masvidal's process sounded eerily similar to the same thing many other people in the world use at times to rekindle their inner fire,  something akin to meditation, imagination, prayer or intuition, to find the center of their being. 

    Here's how he explained his process. 

    "You need to be in your own thought, for quite some time," Masvidal said. "You're going to look at mistakes. How you were feeling before? Take all these things into consideration."

    Then, Masvidal said he eventually found all the answers he was seeking emerge from within. 

    "Start to do the math," Masvidal said. "Create a formula for the best you."

    Masvidal returned to the UFC in March 2019 against Darren Till at UFC Fight Night 147. He won that fight, and his next two against Ben Askren and Nate Diaz, via stoppage on his way to becoming one of the most popular and successful fighters in the world today.

    Masvidal had been reborn. 

    Or to pay homage to his new "Street Jesus" look and newfound power to "baptize" his nonbelieving opponents, Masvidal was resurrected.

Acceptance of Revealed Truth

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    Masvidal gave his body the break it needed.
    Masvidal gave his body the break it needed.Mike Roach/Getty Images

    Bu perhaps the most important thing Masvidal did to become the UFC's newest superstar was simply accepting everything as it was.

    Fighting sports are filled with people who deny the truth about any particular thing. It's why combat sports history is littered with numerous examples of fighters trying to do too many different things at once beyond their vocations or sticking with something as part of their training regimens or team that so obviously doesn't work for them.

    Accepting the truth is hard, especially when it points to something that requires change. 

    But Masvidal accepted his apparent limitations, and he did it without limiting in his mind what he might become. He looked at what worked, what didn't work and then made a decision to use that knowledge to do better going forward. 

    One example would be how Masvidal accepted that his body just needed time away from the rigors of the sport. The life of a fighter is grueling, and Masvidal had been living that life since he was 16 years old. It was time for a break. 

    "Coming back into the sport, I needed that year off more physically than ever mentally," Masvidal said. "I had been in three fights a year for a good time, sometimes four in a year. It's just training camp after training camp and a lot of the same things."

Think, Think, Think

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    Masvidal didn't just relax. He focused his thinking on how to become new.
    Masvidal didn't just relax. He focused his thinking on how to become new.Mike Roach/Getty Images

    Next, Masvidal said he didn't waste the downtime his body needed by keeping himself busy with other trivial task. Instead, he used that time to think. 

    "I needed to step back and see," Masvidal said. "From all those years of experiences, I took out the best me from every time that I competed."

    And it wasn't only the big parts of his life that the fighter reviewed. He looked at every little thing. In fact, one might argue that a life lived focused on all the little things that ultimately make up the bigger things is the surest way to go about it at all. 

    "I looked at all the factors that helped me get to that position, whether it was a certain food that I ate or maybe I saw a certain TV show right before I competed that had me feeling a certain type of way before I stepped onto the stage," Masvidal said. 

    The fruit of those labors is undeniable.

    Suddenly, Masvidal is the UFC's first-ever BMF champ, a fighter reportedly with huge opportunities in 2020, include a superfight against the UFC's biggest superstar Conor McGregor (or Dana White's "golden cow""as Masvidal puts it) and a long-awaited welterweight title shot against Kamaru Usman. 

    Those types of fights are only on the table right now because Masvidal took some time to think. 

    "All those things, I examined it and created a formula," Masvidal said. "And that formula is what you see every time that I step out and compete."

All Challenges Are Opportunities

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    Masvidal is eyeing a huge 2020 inside the Octagon and out.
    Masvidal is eyeing a huge 2020 inside the Octagon and out.Mike Roach/Getty Images

    But new challenges lie ahead.  

    The fighter seems intent on building upon his stellar 2019 run by becoming something even more than he is already. His plans include staying active and fully engaged in his craft against the very best opponents the UFC has to offer and always seeking new challenges for himself inside the Octagon and out so he can continue to stay sharp. 

    Masvidal has also engaged in a couple of business interests outside the sport that he personally selected as the best ways for him to stay truly authentic to his purpose in life while also allowing him to capitalize on his newfound fame. 

    Masvidal's latest venture is part ownership in Recuerdo Mezcal, a popular distilled alcoholic beverage from Mexico made from agave, which is something the fighter worked on for over three years before revealing it to the public. 

    Beyond that, Masvidal sees himself as the UFC's next big thing. Heck, Masvidal sees himself as the UFC current big thing. 

    He's not wrong. 

The Power of Self-Belief

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    The Rock presented Masvidal with the BMF title after UFC 244.
    The Rock presented Masvidal with the BMF title after UFC 244.Mike Roach/Getty Images

    But perhaps most important to Masvidal's newfound fortune is the incredible power of his self-belief.

    Masvidal said his most likely next opponent was UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, and he said part of the reason he wants to fight the Nigerian-born American champ so badly is because of the things he's seen things from writers and fans on social media that suggest he wouldn't be able to win the fight. 

    For Masvidal, it's all just fuel for the fire.

    "Oh, this the tallest mountain, they're saying," Masvidal said. "Oh no, this is mountain unscalable is what they're saying. Okay, well let me show you guys how quick I climb it."

    Masvidal said his vast experience, dating all the way back to those legendary Miami streetfights organized by the late Kimbo Slice, would help carry him to victory.

    More than that, he said he'd beat Usman because some people didn't seem to think he could. 

    Or as Masvidal puts it: "All these things are things that are just green lights in my head because I'm one dirty motherf—er."

    It all just sort of poured out him from there.

    Masvidal clearly had one fight more on his mind than any of the others. 

Is Kamaru Usman Next?

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    Usman is undefeated in the UFC.
    Usman is undefeated in the UFC.Steve Marcus/Getty Images

    Masvidal is already working himself into fight mode.

    It might be a few weeks before his next fight is officially announced, but Masvidal isn't just sitting around twiddling his thumbs. He's mentally preparing himself for his next opportunity. He's already envisioning how he'll beat Usman. 

    While Masvidal said he's open to the other fights, all signs seem to be pointing to Usman being next. The UFC welterweight champ enjoyed a fantastic 2019. He defeated Tyron Woodley at UFC 235 in March for the title, and Colby Covington at UFC 245 in December. 

    All that success just seems to make Masvidal want to fight Usman even more. 

    "Never been knocked out? Boom, check. Never been beat? Check. Just go down the list. I don't," Masvidal said.

    So Masvidal is setting goals right now just as he did before, and his next one seems to capturing the 170-pound title. More than that, he seems to want to be the first person in the UFC to decimate the current welterweight champion of the world.

    "I don't think he's even lost a round in the UFC," Masvidal said. "That's something I'm going to break rather fast."

Masvidal's Good News

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    Masvidal said anyone can do the same kinds of things he did.
    Masvidal said anyone can do the same kinds of things he did.Chris Unger/Getty Images

    Whatever happens next, Masvidal's amazing comeback truly warrants praise. More importantly, it deserved some analyzation.

    The good news is that the fighter said the process he used was absolutely repeatable by others, too. 

    Maybe that's why you're reading this now. You want to become the BMF version of yourself, and you're looking for a little advice on how to do it from the UFC's King of Swag. 

    To those with ears to hear, let it be so. Masvidal has this instruction for you.   

    "What I did is nothing crazy," said Masvidal. "Anybody could do it if you just try to walk through it a little and you have a little bit of sense of direction on how to go about it."

    And the rewards? They're great. Possibly immeasurable. 

    "I got to do some amazing and marvelous stuff," Masvidal said, and the fighter believes you can do it, too.

    But he'd probably also also agree that it only really matters what you think about the matter, because as Masvidal already proved to everyone in the UFC: the truest swag comes from within.