UFC 251 – Street Jesus and Marty Snoozeman

You have to hand it to Kamaru Usman. He knows how to win. As Jorge Masvidal, the breakout star of 2019, dropped 20 pounds of weight to fight the Welterweight champion on 6 days notice, it was difficult not to entertain the impossible. Could Masvidal sneak it? 

The rational mind knew it couldn’t happen. For all Masvidal’s charm and the glory of last year’s tear, he has double-digit losses on his record. Usman is 12-0. There are enough videos around of Masvidal being ragdolled by wrestlers to put to bed any serious notion he could resist it against the Nigerian Nightmare.

What kind of a Nightmare is Usman, exactly? The Grim Reaper, perhaps – Usman represents nothing so much as the boring inexorability of death. He did what he always does, blasting forward and smothering Masvidal like an anxiety blanket, never letting go, using overwhelming strength and wrestling acumen to grind out another fan-hemorrhaging decision win. 

The hope never quite died that an upset might come from nowhere. This was, after all, Street Jesus! The Miami Goon! A man who sent Ben Askren to Gehenna in three seconds with a flying knee, and then hilariously broke with all notion of sportsmanship afterwards by promising to break his face if he saw him in Whole Foods. But it wasn’t to be. Amid the tedium, perhaps the biggest surprise was how good Masvidal looked in the clinches. Although a striker by preference, Conor McGregor he is not – he held his own, landed elbows, and was ultimately outclassed and overpowered. His gas tank wasn’t what it could be, but given the wildly last minute nature of his training camp and the weight cut you could hardly expect anything else. He controlled the damage, and while Snoozeman beat him comprehensively, he was more nullified than battered. Some speculate this was even Masvidal’s plan – to take the fight last minute, providing an excuse for defeat, and then get another big pay day in a rematch.

The subject of fighter pay has swirled around the UFC for years now, and lately reached a near-crisis point, with multiple high level fighters appearing to walk away from the promotion – including Masvidal. UFC President Dana White, a longtime fan of Donald Trump, has always exploited his fighters. Like so many of the rest of us in the modern gig economy, fighters are treated as independent contractors. This setup allows the promotion to pay out only for fights themselves, and offer no other employee benefits. Entry level-fighters are paid around $10,000 to fight, and will fight perhaps twice a year. After expenses – training camps, flying their corner out to the fight, many fighters are barely making ends meet. Some even operate at a loss, using GoFundMe to make it into the cage. White runs such a tight fiefdom that young people are putting their physical safety at serious risk in order to take themselves financially backwards.

It is in this context that talk of a fighter union has emerged. The present method fighters are using to demand better pay – unconvincing threats of retirement – is failing. Masvidal bucked it and got his money through a twist of fortune, but he won’t get it again. It’s an individual method, and the company will easily roll over them. Unity in action, however, would hit them very hard. “Unions don’t necessarily make things better, you know what I mean?” commented White. “Careful what you wish for… I couldn’t care either way. I could care less. It doesn’t matter to me.”

The lady doth protest too much. Here’s hoping the fighters group together and humble him. Who wouldn’t want to see the police try to break up that particular picket line?

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