Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal didn't have time to properly build to their encounter at UFC 251 last July. They might be getting a second chance.
ESPN's Ariel Helwani reported Monday on DC & Helwani that a rematch is "not dead," and the two stars are "pretty close" after Usman seemed to throw a wet blanket on the idea (warning: link contains profanity).
Usman earned a unanimous decision over Masvidal to successfully defend the welterweight championship. Masvidal stepped up at the last minute after Gilbert Burns was diagnosed with COVID-19 and forced to withdraw.
A return bout seems inevitable because it would be a big-money fight for everyone involved with the benefit of more time to build interest.
Usman told ESPN's Brett Okamoto he thought he should get to select his next opponent and expressed a preference for Gamebred:
"He knows he can't beat me. There are certain guys you just know, 'I can't beat that dude.' He just doesn't have the skills to beat me. Now, can a freak accident happen on any given day? Absolutely. But 10 times out of 10, I beat him badly, which is why I looked at him. It's my show. I pick who I fight. At this point, I just didn't like all the circumstances I had to deal with going into [the first fight with Masvidal], and it left a sour taste in my mouth. The s--t they've talked has left a sour taste in my mouth. I need to put him in the ground for good."
Usman's manager, Ali Abdelaziz, also said the idea of tying the matchup together with a season of The Ultimate Fighter had been thrown around with UFC President Dana White.
On merit, one could argue Colby Covington and Leon Edwards are more deserving of a second crack at Usman. They both sit above Masvidal in the UFC's division rankings, and Masvidal lost his only fight of 2020.
But the Miami native appears to have struck a nerve and might be the final choice if the champion appears to have the final say on the matter.