While it has not been officially announced, UFC 251 appears to have a new main event in place.
Ariel Helwani of ESPN reported Jorge Masvidal and Kamaru Usman are in "active negotiations" to meet at the pay-per-view after Gilbert Burns was forced to withdraw due to a positive COVID-19 test. Masvidal and Usman both tweeted late Saturday, hinting negotiations were complete.
Helwani reported Masvidal took and passed a COVID antibody test Saturday. However, obstacles remain because the antibody test does not determine whether someone currently has the virus. Masvidal and Usman will also have to quickly travel to the United Arab Emirates in order to pass the country's testing protocols ahead of Saturday's event.
Masvidal and Usman have been trading public barbs for months, and the fight was UFC's original choice to main event the Fight Island pay-per-view. However, negotiations with Masvidal went sour over the BMF champion feeling he was not being properly compensated. He even thrust the blame on Usman, saying UFC was trying to pay him less because "the other dude can't draw."
Usman defeated Colby Covington at UFC 245 via TKO in the fifth round to retain the welterweight championship. It was his fourth straight fight to go into the fifth round, and he's gone to the scorecards in eight of his last 10 fights. His fight is more methodical than Masvidal, who owns the fastest knockout in UFC history and has won his last three bouts via knockout or stoppage.
"He's a boring-ass dude," Masvidal said to BT Sport, per DAZN. "If I'm speaking from a straight tactical point, he doesn't want to strike and he doesn't fully commit to wrestling either. All he fully commits to is stalling, just being a f--king stall machine. For the first time, he didn't stall with [Covington], and it was a s--t kickboxing match, and the world gave him all types of praise for it because he wasn't his usual boring self and he actually threw some fists."
UFC 251 was originally slated to have three championship fights, with Usman-Burns being part of a card that also includes Alexander Volkanovski-Max Holloway (featherweight) and Petr Yan-Jose Aldo (bantamweight).