The welterweight division was the main attraction in the UFC at the end of 2019 because of Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz in November and Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington in December.
It sounds like business could again be picking up with the 170-pounders soon enough. Both Masvidal and Usman have been vocal recently, and the two could be preparing for fights to be announced soon—perhaps even against each other.
Both Usman and Masvidal have made headlines in recent days regarding who they are looking to take on next. Of course, the shadow over all of this is Conor McGregor as usual. However, there could be big fights coming down the pike with or without the Notorious.
In other news, the UFC on ESPN 9 main card on Saturday has taken a hit.
Here's the latest news and rumors on the high-profile welterweights and the last-minute replacement fight.
Usman Wants Masvidal or McGregor
Usman was one of the breakout stars of 2019 with his stunning performance to end Tyron Woodley's reign over the division. Then he took care of one of the most divisive fighters on the roster in Colby Covington.
Now he has his sights set on a big-money fight.
In this division, that's either Masvidal or McGregor, one of the most elusive paydays in the business.
Usman called out both of them in an interview with ESPN.
"Jorge Masvidal, you had an opportunity on April 18, May 9, June and now July. You want to fight Nate—a fight that wasn't even competitive," the champion said, per Brett Okamoto of ESPN. "And Conor, you said you wanted to be the king of the 170-pound division. Now you're quiet. So you know what? Just remain quiet. I've given both of you a shot, and none of you have taken it."
Usman was even willing to sweeten the pot for McGregor. He went on to tell Okamoto that he would agree not to take down the Irishman for the first two rounds. Usman is known for his top-level wrestling but said he would like to stand with McGregor first.
McGregor made his return to the Octagon in January against Donald Cerrone but appears to be focused on the lightweight division. Khabib Nurmagomedov, Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier were all subjects of a recent Twitter rant from the two-division champion.
Usman's size and strength would be an interesting matchup for McGregor. His only forays into the welterweight division have come against former lightweights in Cerrone and Diaz. Usman is a true welterweight, who would sooner move up to middleweight than lightweight.
Connecting the dots, it would seem that Masvidal is a much more likely opponent.
Masvidal Training for Unannounced Opponent
Meanwhile, Masvidal has returned to the gym and is training for a yet-to-be-announced opponent, per his manager Abraham Kawa.
"He definitely wants to fight somebody," Kawa told MMA Junkie Radio. "That person, we're all going to find out shortly. I don't want to give too much away, but I will say Jorge has been a man of his word since I've known him; he's never lied or said something, then something else happened."
The phrasing of Kawa's comments are particularly interesting because he mentions Masvidal living up to his word. He has recently called out Nate Diaz as the two have engaged in a brief war of words about their 2019 fight, which saw Masvidal win the "BMF" belt with a doctor stoppage TKO win between the third and fourth rounds.
Kawa also said the "division goes as Jorge goes," expressing his feelings that Masvidal is the bigger draw between him and champion Kamaru Usman.
It sounds like a camp that isn't playing up a fight against the champion. Instead, it wouldn't be surprising to see the UFC go in the direction of booking a rematch with Diaz or a blockbuster with McGregor.
Again, it seems as though McGregor has his eye on the lightweight division at the moment, so perhaps it is Diaz who is in the driver's seat for a fight with the holder of the "BMF" belt.
Kevin Holland out of UFC on ESPN 9; Gabriel Green Set to Step In
The UFC has done a phenomenal job of putting together some fight cards at short notice and in an ever-changing landscape. But the UFC on ESPN 9 main card took a hit when Kevin Holland was forced off due to injury, per Nolan King of MMA Junkie.
However, the organization saved the fight, and it will still air on the main card on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday as promotional newcomer Gabriel Green is set to take on Daniel Rodriguez.
Holland would have been making just a two-week turnaround if he were able to fight on the card. He finished Anthony Hernandez in only 39 seconds on the undercard of the Overeem vs. Harris Fight Night card on May 16.
Now Green will get the opportunity to fight Rodriguez. D-Rod made an impressive UFC debut in February getting a second-round submission victory over respected veteran Tim Means. Holland would have been a dangerous opponent.
Now he sees a debutant in Green who appears to have some potential. He has made appearances in Bellator and Combate Americas, and he holds a six-fight win streak with all of those coming by way of TKO or submission.
Given the general dearth of sports, it's not a bad middleweight fight to take in on a Saturday night as the organization makes its return to Las Vegas.