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UFC 251 Combat Card: Kamaru Usman, Jorge Masvidal officially set as the main event on Fight Island

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Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal will officially lead UFC 251

UFC 251 has a new major event. After overcoming many logistical hurdles over the weekend, Jorge Masvidal will face the welterweight champion Kamaru Usman in Abu Dhabi on Sunday morning (Saturday evening). Both sides agreed to the conditions on Sunday and were flown to Las Vegas for their first COVID-19 test. According to Ariel Helwani, both have passed and are expected to board private jets to Yas Island on Monday.

Masvidal will get the Main Event Slot, which many thought he deserved at all. With 48 career battles, Masvidal would act as the fighter with the most MMA appearances before getting his first title shot.

Shortly after the news of the agreement came to light, UFC President Dana White posted a hype video on Twitter that apparently confirmed that he could secure the new blockbuster main event.

In the first Fight Island card, the original headliner fell apart on Saturday when lead candidate Gilbert Burns retired from a shot at Usman̵

7;s title after a positive test on COVID-19. Masvidal, the ceremonial BMF champion, was the opponent UFC originally targeted for Usman before negotiations went sideways and Masvidal began a public protest against the fighters’ pay.

Masvidal (35-13) spent his July 4th vacation testing the first of several coronavirus tests while negotiating the fight. The photos were published on social media by his manager Malki Kawa. The 35-year-old racket rose from a journeyman status in 2019 with a trio of stop wins, which earned him worldwide fame and the award as Fighter of the Year.

One of the biggest hurdles for the proposed fight is logistics, as in such a last-minute scenario, fighters would arrive safely in the United Arab Emirates amidst quarantine protocols. Usman (16-1) did not board a chartered UFC flight that carried fighters, coaches, the media, and advertising personnel when he heard the news from Burns (19-3).

If the fight does not take place, the original co-main event of featherweight champion Alexaner Volkanovski, who competes in a rematch against former title holder Max Holloway, would receive the highest settlement. The card also includes a vacant bantamweight title fight between Petr Yan and former featherweight king Jose Aldo.

Usman-Masvidal was the fight that made the most sense to the division initially and was the most preferred by fans. It also offers a possible dramatic contrast in styles with Masvidal’s explosive punch against Usman’s suffocating wrestling.

Masvidal initially claimed he was offered half of what he did last November when he defeated Nate Diaz and declined to fight. Reports surfaced that after his social media outbreak he was offered the Usman struggle again with the full wallet he had made against Diaz, which he refused a second time.

The glowing Burns skipped Leon Edwards in the leaderboard and took the opportunity largely thanks to his winning streak in six fights and the recent victories over Demian Maia and former champion Tyron Woodley. Burns was also publicly criticized by Masvidal and Diaz, who accused him of only getting the fight because he was willing to take short money.

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