Even though there were no fights for the UFC in the world-famous Octagon this past weekend as the promotion took the weekend off for the July 4 holiday, this has still been a chaotic 48 hours for the promotion.
How we got here:
Friday: No. 1 contender Gilbert Burns (19-3), who was scheduled to challenge incumbent champion Kamaru Usman (16-1) for his UFC Welterweight championship on July 11 at the UFC 251 main event on Fight Island (Yaz Island, Abu Dhabi), tested positive for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Burns’ cornermen also tested positive for COVID-19.
Due to these positive coronavirus tests, Burns withdrew from UFC 251 on eight days’ notice.
In the aftermath of Burns’ withdrawal from UFC 251, fans took to social media to advocate for No. 3 contender Jorge Masvidal (35-13) to fight Usman in the top contender’s place.
No. 2 contender Colby Covington also threw his hat into the race via his Twitter late Friday evening:
Saturday: ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reports that the UFC was working to book Usman vs. Masvidal on one week’s notice for UFC 251’s headlining fight, saying:
“Sources said the talks aren’t close to being finalized yet, but they are ongoing and both sides believe there is a path to making this fight happen. This is significant because the UFC and Masvidal were far apart on contract talks for months. In the end, the UFC decide to walk away from negotiations about a month ago and gave the fight to Burns, who recently beat former champion Tyron Woodley.”
IF they get a deal done, and IF they pass all their tests, and IF Masvidal, the 17-year vet who started in the backyards of Miami, somehow pulls this off and wins this belt after all these years under these crazy circumstances … that would be legendary status right there.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) July 5, 2020
Sunday: Helwani reports on his Instagram that the fight contract has been signed and Usman vs. Masvidal is now booked for UFC 251’s main event on Fight Island, six days ahead of the card:
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This just in. Negotiations for Usman vs. Masvidal are done, per sources. All sides agreed to terms. Usman is en route to LV; Masvidal landed earlier via private jet. Once at the hotel, they’ll have to take a COVID test and then quarantine while awaiting results. If negative, they’ll fly to AD likely tomorrow. Negotiations were obviously a huge hurdle but now that is clear. Now it depends on that COVID test, which is obviously a massive hurdle, too. Total crap shoot. If (hopefully not) they don’t pass the COVID test the fight can’t and won’t happen.
Main event hinges on virus testing:
Both fighters on the main event, along with all fighters on all Fight Island cards, are subjected to five rounds of coronavirus disease testing.
Most of these tests will occur after Usman and Masvidal land in Abu Dhabi.
In order to progress through to the next round of virus testing, a negative COVID-19 test is required.
The biggest key here is the fact that as little as one positive COVID-19 test from either fighter will derail the main event this coming Saturday.
Barring a positive test and/or a fighter missing weight at the weigh-in on Friday, the UFC Welterweight championship fight is set for this coming Saturday night.