It’s an excellent time to be alive if you are Jorge Masvidal.
The longtime MMA veteran has reached a point in his career where he can comfortably call himself one of the best in the world. But things did not come easy or fast for the Miami-born fighter.
Born to parents of Cuban and Peruvian origin, Masvidal grew up as a first-generation American in the notorious Miami-Dade County. His first introduction to fighting came in the streets, where he would cross paths with some of the most well-known street-fighters of the day. From there he would go onto an MMA career that would take him all over the globe, as he fought for seemingly every significant organization around until finally making his UFC debut in 2013.
Today, Jorge Masvidal stands as one of the best welterweights in the world, he is loved by legions of MMA fans, and he could be as close as a fight away from a title shot, but it hasn’t always been roses.
Life started for Jorge Masvidal in Miami, Florida.
He was born to a Peruvian mother and a Cuban father whom he would describe as a bit of a wildman. Masvidal has described his father as a man that was into making money, but he didn’t know how to do it the right way. Perhaps not doing it the right way is what led him to jail time on separate occasions for such offenses as manslaughter and drug trafficking.
Masvidal would also go on to make money in an eye-brow raising manner, but in his case, the violence was sanctioned… for the most part. Much has been documented about the Miami-Dade county street fighting scene, and it could be fairly stated that Masvidal got his start in those very streets. He notably defeated a fellow street fighter called Ray, that was known as a protege and friend of street-fighting king Kimbo Slice, in a pair of fights.
The videos can be found on Youtube to this day, and combine for well over one million views.
Fighting for Money
Street fighting, while exciting, is not known for being a profession that helps much with paying the bills. Masvidal turned pro in 2003 and spent his early career competing mostly in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the Absolute Fighting Championships promotion. He fought against such future notables as Raphael Assuncao, Joe Lauzon, and former Ultimate Fighter contestant and UFC vet, Rolando Delgado. His first notable run with a somewhat major promotion was a three-fight stint with BodogFIGHT; while there he picked up a noteworthy win over then struggling but still highly regarded lightweight, Yves Edwards.
From there he would compete for World Victory Road and Strikeforce, before eventually settling into the then-fledgling Bellator Fighting Championships.
Now a Superstar
Jorge is well known today for his record-setting, goosebump-inducing, flying knee KO of Ben Askren.
The video went viral, as it played over and over on sports news networks, as well as other outlets. But a decade before landing that knee, Masvidal was on the receiving end of a highlight reel finish, one that gained just as much steam and in the process helped put Bellator on the map.
It was May 1, 2009, at Bellator 5, when Masvidal was matched up in the semi-final round of the Inaugural Bellator Lightweight Tournament with a longtime journeyman, Toby Imada. Imada caught Masvidal in an inverted triangle midway through the third round, forcing him to tap for just the second time in his career.
Clips of the video could be found all over the internet allowing for millions of fans to see it, and also for Bellator to gain a bit of recognition that it didn’t have before. Perhaps the experience left a mark on Masvidal as he has not been finished a single time in the subsequent years.
Jorge Masvidal returned to Strikeforce in 2011. While there he found a good deal of success, going so far as to challenge for the Lightweight Championship. But Strikeforce was not long for this world, and Jorge Masvidal was just getting started. He entered the UFC without much fanfare in early 2013, and despite a good deal of success, he hardly seemed like a guy that would eventually go on to take the MMA world by storm.
Before he gained a reputation as a smooth knockout artist, Masvidal was sometimes thought of as a guy that couldn’t quite get over the hump. He suffered several extremely close and sometimes questionable split decision losses to several top contenders, and for a while, it looked like that would be his legacy.
But then came the opportunity of a lifetime, even if it did not appear that way in the beginning.
2018 & Beyond
Things looked bleak for Jorge Masvidal at the start of 2018. He was riding a two-fight losing streak when he agreed to face Darren Till in the Englishman’s backyard. But by the end of UFC Fight Night 147, a star was just on the cusp of breaking out. Masvidal entered the octagon as an underdog, but a round a half later he was celebrating a career-defining win as he knocked Till out with a thundering right hand, that sent the Englishman down to the mat and into a career spiral.
Normally the excitement would end there, but Jorge Masvidal has shown us up to this point that he is anything but normal. During a post-fight, backstage interview, Masvidal walked away from the microphone to deliver a series of punches to fellow contender, Leon Edwards. The punches pushed Masvidal that much closer to superstardom, and when he delivered the “three-piece and a soda” line in the aftermath, the seeds were truly planted.
The seeds sprouted in July of 2019. Masvidal was already enjoying immense support, riding a wave of popularity like never before, when he was tasked with doing what no man before him had ever managed to do. Ben Askren was undefeated, a stud wrestler and former multiple time World Champion in MMA. He left a trail of over-matched opponents in his wake, and with those wins came a confidence that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, Masvidal included.
No love was lost as the cage doors closed at UFC 239, but when they opened things had changed. Jorge Masvidal stopped Ben Askren with a flying knee in 5 seconds, and with it, he ended Askren’s hype train and his undefeated run. Masvidal’s post-fight antics, while of questionable sportsmanship, only endeared him more to fans, and ever the showman, he has not let up on those antics since, though one could argue that we are just finally seeing the authentic Jorge Masvidal.
The future looks bright for Jorge Masvidal. He is just over a month away from the biggest fight of his MMA career: A PPV headlining bout, at Madison Square Garden, against fellow contender Nate Diaz.
The two will be competing for the “BMF” Championship, which is even more symbolic that most championship belts. It’s a novelty of sorts, an homage to violence, and a cherry on top of what is already going to be a very sweet fight.
It’s been a long time coming for Jorge Masvidal, but as we have learned throughout his career, he was bred for this game.
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The Scrap’s Cole Henry is a small business manager by day and an armchair MMA analyst and combat sports writer by night. Henry is also the co-host a weekly podcast available on iTunes called The MMA Scope and a podcast on Rokfin called #1 Bullshitter. Follow Cole on Twitter (@TheScopeMMA).