Fresh off the back of the ongoing Jon Jones dispute, and yet another retirement from Conor McGregor, more UFC fighters are expressing their dissatisfaction. This time ‘round, it’s the Welterweights who are taking to that ever-present platform of Twitter to share their thoughts and make their complaints; the top-ranked contender Gilbert Burns and MMA exponent Jorge Masvidal have both posted tweets in recent days and weeks that have stirred up the drama.
Gilbert ‘Durinho’ Burns (19-3) is just weeks away from making his debut title fight against the reigning and undisputed UFC Welterweight Champion of the World Kamaru Usman, held at UFC 251 on July 12th. Among the usual Twitter storm that precedes title bouts, Burns has voiced his dissatisfaction at Conor McGregor’s continued presence in the official UFC rankings.
The rankings are part of MMA’s global image and legacy – it’s a big deal to be considered among the best in a weight class and the world – however, Burns has taken offense that the ‘Notorious’ one is still ranked at number 4 in the Lightweight rankings and 8th in the pound for pound rankings.
Comparing the way that McGregor’s name is still included, to the way former Bantamweight Champion Henry ‘The Messenger’ Cejudo was effectively stripped of his title and rankings upon his retirement, Burns exclaimed “Cejudo retired, they took him out of the rankings very quickly. Let’s do it with Connor as well! [sic]”
When the Messenger called it quits at UFC 249, he was ranked the 3rd best pound for pound fighter in the world, and was the reigning Bantamweight Champion. A few months later, however, and his name is nowhere to be found in the rankings.
One possible big reason why the UFC hasn’t fully dismissed the star Irishman from the rankings is because of his track record for quitting and returning. He first retired back in April 2016 and, after his second retirement in March 2019, he announced that he would be fighting three times a year. Now on retirement number three, McGregor has attributed this one to being “tired of waiting around” for something interesting to happen, but he’ll be in for a shock if he expects to return in a few month’s time and go straight into a title fight.
The biggest UFC drama in June though happens to be between one of its hottest stars and Dana White himself. Current UFC BMC champion Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal (35-13) is understandably peeved after being dismissed from the welterweight title bout against Usman in July in favor of the much greener Gilbert Burns. Masvidal was lined up and waiting for his shot at the title, but unfortunately, negotiations on his salary fell apart at the last minute.
Taking to Twitter in early June, Masvidal stated that he’s “not an independent contractor if [he] can’t go anywhere else to make a living” and challenged the UFC to “let me go and let me see if I’m worth it”.
A long-standing fan favorite and recipient of multiple Fight of the Night honors, Masvidal has played a crucial role in elevating the UFC to the household name that it is today. He’s also a big draw for corporate sponsorships, something that the MMA promotion should value as it seeks to diversify its brand and build on growing trends like online focused competitions and games.
Right now, Masvidal is riding a three-fight winning streak after dispatching Nate Diaz with a TKO at UFC 244 in November, where he claimed the “mythical” UFC BMF title. He’d already KO’d Darren Till and Ben Askren in the lead up to the Madison Square Garden fight and, after defeating Diaz, fans eagerly anticipated his potential showdown against Usman for the belt. According to Masvidal, however, the title fight simply wasn’t going to happen because the UFC had offered him “half” of what he was paid to fight Diaz – “I fought in backyards…those dudes never disrespected me the way I’m being now”.
White, never one to steer away from controversy, countered with a glib “you don’t have to fight…we’re not begging people to fight.” He then continued to dig himself into an ever deeper hole during an interview with MMA Fighting, where he proclaimed that fighting in the UFC wasn’t a career, and fighters should “take every opportunity” they can get.
Undoubtedly exasperated, Masvidal diplomatically declared in an Instagram live stream that while he has “no animosity” towards the UFC president, they’re never going to see eye to eye and it’s “crazy” to suggest that 16 years in the cage isn’t a career.
This could all just be midsummer madness that blows over in a few weeks, but if White doesn’t sort himself out and encourage the promotion to pay major fighters like Masvidal what they need for title fights, they’re going to lose one of the most experienced, respected, and exciting fighters to ever step into the octagon.