Jorge Masvidal : A Lifetime Outside the System
Photo by Josh Hedges/Forza LLC/Forza LLC via Getty Images
Jorge Masvidal is fighting Nathan Diaz, this Saturday at the Garden, in the main event of UFC 244 for the BMF Belt. This is a big fight, one of the most awaited by the fans. It’s not surprising to see Nate Diaz in one of the biggest fight of the year, but this is new ground for Jorge Masvidal, who’s headlining his first PPV for the UFC.
I am what the kids calls a Jorge Masvidal stan. I’ve been a huge fan of Jorge since the day I watched him first fight and became a fan right away. “Gamebred” became big in 2019 after knocking out the dangerous Darren Till in his backyard, giving the 3 piece and a soda to elite talent Leon Edwards and giving the MGM grand buffet to the loud mouth Ben Askren.
Jorge Masvidal’s fighting skills were always there but he always struggled in the past to make a name for himself. In 2019, Jorge called his return to action “The Resurrection” and he did resurrect his career with style. But what makes Jorge headlining MSG this Saturday special is how he and Nathan Diaz finally won their war against the system and the norm, selling the image of that real person in a fake system. Jorge was never really in the system, that’s what slowed down his career.
This year, the Fighter of the Year contender blew up in incredible fashion. In my opinion, Jorge could have been as big as he is now years ago, but for some reason, things never clicked. Let’s turn back the clock to see why.
“He fights, all the time he fights.” That’s how Jorge Senior described his son when he was three, four years old. Jorge claimed he had so much energy that he would always get into trouble, even at such a young age.
Jorge’s father was arrested and sent to jail for 18 years when Masvidal was still a young kid. In order to protect him, his mother lied and told the little savage that his father was in the military. For more than seven years, Jorge saw his mother work two jobs at the time to just survive while he imagined his father making money all over the world. From this time, he created a lot of hate towards his father and the young Jorge struggled to fit in society. Jorge barely talked English until 12 years old.
So Jorge lived the life of a young kid in a bad neighborhood, often alone at home, and from that came a lot of fighting and a lot of mistakes. Everything started to change when his mother told him the truth about his father and Jorge started visiting him in prison. Little by little, Jorge got the father’s presence he needed all his young life.
Jorge fell in love with boxing very young, he was a fan of Roberto Duran and Julio Cesar Chavez, but he was also into wrestling and Muay Thai. Jorge wanted to compete in wrestling in high school but his grades were too low for him to compete, so he would just train wrestling with the team.
Being out of the system, it’s in the street fights where Jorge made a name for himself. Under the guidance of the late Kimbo Slice, Jorge’s street fights with Ray went viral and showed a young kid with a lot of guts and skills. Ray was much bigger than Jorge but Jorge beat him twice. To this day Jorge called the second Ray fight one of his toughest fights ever.
Contrary to the popular belief of Street fighting as a “bad people” thing, what Jorge loved about this experience was that it was pure and full of love. he had nothing but respect for Ray and vice versa. “There was no bullshit, no drama, we weren’t little boys, we were men and we were fighting. Simple as that”
This experience was also the confirmation for Jorge that he was game, that he was made to do this. It’s quite fascinating hearing Jorge talk about how tough the rematch with Ray was. “It was a soul searching moment, it was tough, there was no time limit so you had to keep going and going. I was hitting him with a good 3-4 shots combo but he’d come back with only one shot and my all foundation would be shaking. It plays tricks with your mind, you hit someone with everything you got and they just smile and keep walking forward, you really find out who’s made of what in there and that’s why I love it.”
Jorge said he met a lot of hard humble people in there, and that’s why he became who he is now. The system didn’t want Jorge and Jorge probably didn’t want to be in the system either, and this was Jorge’s way to enter the combat sports world: by a door that’s much more dangerous and not so appreciated.
So from the start, Jorge’s birth was out of the norm or the system. He grew up street fighting and step by step the code and ethics of this environment became what’s normal to him.
Through his long and under appreciated MMA Career, Jorge Masvidal fought for 13 MMA organisations. He made his MMA debut at 18 years old. Three years into his professional MMA Career, Gamebred already faced the likes of Raphael Assuncao and Joe Lauzon.
On July 14th 2007, Jorge faced the great Yves Edwards. it was Yves’ 44th pro MMA fight, and only Jorge’s 13th pro fight. The fight took place in Trenton, New Jersey, and it was a special occasion for the young Gamebred, as it was the first fight his father could attend. Everything seemed to come in place for Masvidal at this point, his family life was getting much better and he was on the verge of fighting one of the best lightweights in the world.
Jorge won the fight by Knockout (Head kick) in the 2nd round. This victory should have put Jorge on the map, but the year is 2007 and the promotion was bodogFIGHT (which stopped his activity a few months after this fight). Jorge was 3-0 in this promotion but now had to find another one.
After a few fights and a three fight deal in Japan, Jorge landed in Bellator. He actually headlined Bellator 1 when he defeated Nick Agallar by TKO in Round 1. Unfortunately the first real highlight of Jorge’s career will be the submission he was the victim of. In his second Bellator bout Toby Imada submitted Jorge with a beautiful inverted triangle choke.
Jorge would win his third fight in Bellator but left the promotion, at the time managed by Bjorn Rebney.
Gamebred was still looking for a promotion that would be home, but so far it was a struggle; he would fight 3 round fights ending in split decisions left and right. Then he fought Paul Daley in Sharkfights. That was another big moment for him as Daley was out of the UFC due to his behavior in the Koscheck fight (which was a title eliminator) but the Brit already was a name and one of the most feared welterweights. Paul Daley missed weight and got blessed with a more-than-controversial Unanimous Decision.
Masvidal then signed with Strikeforce and had some success there. In his second fight he faced KJ Noons in a title eliminator. KJ Noons was a name due to his fights with Stockton legend Nick Diaz. Gamebred put an absolute masterclass on KJ Noons, and earned a title shot. To this day, this is still one of the best performance in Jorge’s career.
After losing by decision (fair and square) his fight for the lightweight title against Gilbert Melendez, Jorge would win one more fight and finally sign to the UFC. It took 30 Pro MMA fights for the UFC to sign Jorge Masvidal. Obviously, the company and the Floridian did not see that signing the same way. For the UFC, Jorge was a good fighter entering his prime who would need to get through the rankings like everyone else before. For Jorge, signing with the UFC meant that he would fight the best of the best right away. But the early fights of Jorge’s UFC career were against Tim Means (good fighter, dangerous but not highly ranked), Michael Chiesa (fresh out of TUF), Pat Healy (good fighter but his best days were behind him), Daron Cruikshank and James Krause. All the fighters mentioned are good skilled fighters and had competitive fights with Masvidal, who at the time had the bad habit of fighting at the same level of his competition. Jorge admitted later that those names weren’t what he dreamed of and he lacked motivation preparing for them. He was also a big lightweight, and his run at 155 always felt limited due to how drastic the cut was. His final fight at lightweight was the most controversial of his career. Masvidal faced Al Iaquinta in 2015, in the co main event of a fight night card headlined by top featherweight Chad Mendes. That co main event spot on Fox was a big deal for Jorge. Every person who watched that fight saw him outclass and beat up Al Iaquinta (coming very close to get the fight stop in the 1st round) before suffering some adrenaline dump and “coasting” until the end of the fight. The judges gave the fight to Al Iaquinta.
It was clear that Jorge won that fight but it was also clear that after the first round he had that toxic mentality of thinking “ I already won that fight" like it would happen in a street fight. Once again, despite having more than thirty five fights behind him all over the world, Masvidal always kept that street fighter mentality, and he was also so comfortable in that cage that he would not always pull the trigger. It was sometimes frustrating to watch, because all the skills were there. Jorge is a tremendous boxer, excellent kicker (his body kick is by far his best weapon), he uses a good jab, good rhythm, and he’s a much better grappler than what people give him credit for.
After the Al Iaquinta fight, Masvidal decided it was time to finally move up in weight and fight at Welterweight. For his first fight there, he would knockout Cezar Ferreira (who really is a middleweight); then on short notice, he would headline a Fight Night card against former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson. It was a great competitive fight that Jorge lost by split decision. Same thing happened in his next fight with Lorenz Larkin. Split decision losses are what defined Masvidal’s UFC career at this point, and Jorge needed to fix that quick. Jorge was always loved by the hardcore fans because of his skillset and his mentality, but to blow up on the mainstream level, he’d need to pull the trigger every opportunity he has.
Jorge was stuck in the UFC because nobody wanted to fight him, he was too big of a risk and not enough of a name. This is a terrible situation to be in the UFC for a fighter. And after losing three out of his last four fights, Gamebred was in no position to negotiate anything with the company. Lucky for Jorge, there were other veterans in the UFC who were still looking to challenge themselves. Ross Pearson was one of them. On the prelims of UFC 201, Jorge Masvidal defeated Pearson by unanimous decision (coming very close to stopping the Aussie in the 2nd round). And this time instead of skipping the media or staying silent, he called out his next fight. Jorge wanted the winner of Jake Ellenberger vs Matt Brown (this fight was on the main card of the UFC 201 PPV). And Jorge’s wish would come true as he faced Jake Ellenberger in December.
As soon as the fight week started, it was clear that Jorge cleaned up his act and now accepted to play with the media a bit more. He was way more vocal and playful. He entered the cage with a big smile on his face and some swag. As soon as the bell rang he was looking for that knockout.
The fight ended in a weird position as Jake’s toe was stuck in the cage, but it was a TKO victory for Jorge Masvidal, who for the second time called out a higher-ranked fighter and one of the most popular in the division… Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
The fight happened in Denver, which is Donald Cerrone’s hometown, but “Gamebred” is not afraid of backyard fights. Cowboy was very dismissive of Jorge’s skillset, almost like casual MMA fans. He found out real quick how wrong he was when Jorge knocked his face two times in one night. Jorge left no controversy, there was nothing to argue about that night. Jorge became a top 5 welterweight in the UFC and that’s when I thought he would blew up to the mainstream. If his popularity rose, though, it was still pretty slow. Of course Jorge then lost his next two fights by decision, and decided to take more than a year off.
The welterweight rankings changed a lot during Jorge’s absence. There were some new fighters in the rankings, mostly wrestlers (Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington) who beat the same old veterans, one after the other. There was also the quick rise of another Cowboy Killer, Darren Till. The Scouser just came up short in his fight for the title against Tyron Woodley, and was looking for a comeback scrap in his home country. Not many people accepted the challenge… except Gamebred, who after more than 16 months off decided to come back to fighting.
During the build up of that fight, it felt good to see a different Gamebred. Different look, different mentality, too. He spent a lot of time talking about how he spent time alone away from TV and the internet, just to think by himself. From that reflection he cut away all the negatives in his life. When it was time to talk about his opponent, he had nothing but positive things to say about him. It’s during the build up of that fight that people started to get interested in Jorge again.
Obviously, the fight itself was awesome, Jorge got dropped inside 15 seconds and was so mad, you could see Jorge insulting Darren for this. The first round was close, but step by step, Jorge started getting loose and landed more and more combinations that he ended with body kicks. In the second round, Jorge switched to southpaw and knocked the larger man out cold. That was a beauty and a contender for Knockout of the Year.
Then, you all know what happened. Jorge punched Leon Edwards backstage and for some reason, the whole MMA world fell in love with him. Maybe because he turned a cool phrase, “three piece and a soda.” It gets even better than this, as the UFC gave him a gift. They gave him Ben Askren. That loudmouth could not help himself and woke up the killer in Jorge. Thinking about it, we should all be grateful toward Ben for waking up Mister Masvidal.
How can this story could get any better? Nathan Diaz came back from a three year nap and decided he wanted to fight someone very similar to him (Nate has been fighting the system for more than a decade before blowing up) and together, they made the UFC make a belt for them.
Of course this belt is not the true title but it’s rewarding two unique characters who refuse to bend the knee for anyone. Hate them, love them, the world needs people like them so they can say, “That’s the bad guy.” Well, in this case, it’s the baddest motherfucker.
Nathan Diaz and Jorge Masvidal have similar backgrounds and careers. It’s a beautiful thing to see both men being rewarded after all these years. May the baddest man win.