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At the end of 2017, Jorge Masvidal was at a crossroads in his mixed martial arts fighting career. Following a big win over Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at the beginning of the year, that put him on the map for title shot, Masvidal dropped a close, split decision to Demian Maia in an eliminator bout.
A few months later, he faced off against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson on the biggest stage of his fighting career, in front of nearly 20,000 fans at Madison Square Garden. Wonderboy dropped Masvidal multiple times during the fight, and he went on to lose an unanimous decision.
Following the back- to-back losses, Masvidal took some time off to re-evaluate his career and assess his next steps. Instead of signing on to fight other UFC contenders, he agreed to compete in a reality TV show, Telemundo’s Exatlon Estados Unidos where participants faced a number of physical and mental tests. To film the show, Masvidal spent three months in the Dominican Republic, away from his friends and family, without a phone, TV or any contact with the outside word.
“It sounds as corny as it may be, but being out away from everybody, just by myself, I got to find me. I got to just listen to my voice, not a million different opinions or some stupid song on the radio or anything,” Masvidal told Ariel Helwani. “I just got to hear my own voice and what I want done in my life before I close the chapter on fighting.”
“I reverse engineered my whole career numerous times,” Masvidal said. “But never in depth like I did this last time, when I was in isolation under the stars, just me, God and the universe, and I’d seen every one of my decision losses in my head and went back. ‘How could I have won that decision?’ was my first answer. And then I immediately killed that person and thought and said, ‘Why the hell would I look for a way to outpoint a guy?’ I should be ending them. Like make a math formula so that there’s no judges involved. And that’s all I’ve been trying to do and that’s all I’m gonna do with what’s left of my career.”
Following a 16-month layoff where he got to clear his head and change his mindset, Masvidal went on to have one of the best runs in UFC history. It started out in London, against the dangerous Darren Till who had recently lost his challenge for the welterweight belt against Tyron Woodley. The fight was meant to be the start of Till’s comeback trail, but Masvidal quickly destroyed those plans with a brutal second round knock-out of the young title contender.
Four months later, on the undercard of Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos, Masvidal made history for the fastest knockout in UFC history, when he ran his knee straight into Ben Askren’s chin within a couple seconds of the bout.
To cap off an already stellar year, Masvidal returned to Madison Square Garden, but this time as headliner at UFC 244, facing off against returning UFC veteran, Nate Diaz in a historic BMF title bout. Within the first few minutes of the fight, it was evident that Diaz had nothing for the Miami fighter, as Masvidal threw non-stop fists, elbows and shins, leading to a third round doctor’s stoppage.
But it wasn’t just the fights and their brutal endings that made Masvidal a superstar in 2019. It was the viral moments, headlines and memes generated around the fights; from the “three piece with a soda” confrontation with Leon Edwards to answering “it was super necessary” after a reporter asked why it was necessary to punch Askren several more times in the face after he was knocked out cold.
It was all these moments adding up to become one of the unlikeliest comeback stories ever seen — a fighter in his mid-30s with 13 losses on his career suddenly transcending the sport and becoming the biggest names, not named Conor McGregor.
This is a sport of a lot of knowledge, of knowing yourself well, knowing your soul and your spirit, your abilities both physically and mentally.Jorge Masvidal says Kamaru Usman rejected fight at UFC 244: ‘That guy knows I’ll baptize him’ | MMA Fighting
Jorge Masvidal’s training routine & diet
Unlike many other UFC fighters, who typically have set training schedules — Stipe Miocic, Demetrious Johnson and TJ Dillashaw to name a few — Masvidal prefers a looser approach to his daily routine. “I am used to traveling and training when I have to. All I need is a one hour window and I will get it done,” he told Men’s Journal. “I get it in no matter, if I had to run to Central Park right now in my sweats to sprint and jog I would. Let’s say all I had was staircase that was five flights.”
“There is an intensity and push that I can bring myself to the wall. I will get myself to the point where I am going to throw up or close to. I only had a pool today, so I swam until I couldn’t anymore. I don’t have an offseason. I am always in the gym doing work. Because of that I am always ready to roll. I already have what I need to beat him, and I am just sharpening it every day.”
Training from his home base in Miami at American Top Team (which also includes Dustin Poirier), Masvidal credits mid-distance runs and sprints for preparing him for a fight. “I will do mid-distance runs one or twice a week. But sprints are what really prepare you for a fight in my opinion, something like an 800,” he said. “Those are fairly difficult for me. So doing those is a challenge I dig into.”
On the subject of weightlifting — which is a hotly debated topic for boxers and MMA fighters alike — Masvidal says he didn’t lift weights when he was fighting at 155 pounds because it made him too big, but now that he’s at 170 pounds, he’s been adding weights to his training routine.
“Early into the training I will lift some, but once we get about seven weeks out I will taper off. That is because there is an impact on my body that is unnecessary, I could be sore when I don’t need to be.”
Closer to the fight, Masvidal mainly focuses on sprints, bodyweight exercises and wrestling. “You can lift a barbell all day, but that won’t prepare you for the feeling of trying to get a man off the ground that doesn’t want to be there. I will lift a man up a hundred times during practice. That is all the lifting that I need to do.”
I compare a UFC fight to a massive 800 sprint where at the finish line there is someone who would like to kill you. Then there are other factors you have to consider, like the adrenaline that kicks in. Once that kicks in you are just an animal, hitting them with punches, but once that pump is done there is a wave of exhaustion that hits.Jorge Masvidal Takes His Fight From the Streets to MSG With UFC and Nate Diaz | Men’s Journal
A huge part of Masvidal’s training camp routine has also been drilling specific moves for his opponent. “I love to drill. I will drill the same movement hundreds of times. There are a lot of people who get bored of drilling, he told Men’s Journal. “I love it. I don’t just find beauty in trying to be efficient and perfect with something, but also I know there is conditioning coming from it. I will do it by myself or with a training partner.”
For the Askren fight, Masvidal revealed that he drilled the flying knee for 30 minutes straight in a training session. “I would take a break, have a little water, maybe watch a fight, and once the exhaustion is gone go back to drilling that same move. I put everything I have into it. I don’t care if the practice is over, if I still have something left I don’t stop. The same with the move that I used to end the Darren Till fight.”
When it comes to his diet, Masvidal has always been notorious for eating badly, scoffing down burgers and pizzas on the regular, whether he was in or out of training camp. He hired a nutritionist back in 2011 to help curb these bad eating habits, once he realised the effect it was having on his performance inside the Octagon.
“It was more like I stopped eating for two weeks and on top of that I had to lose 15 pounds of water, so I was like, ‘It’s either time for me to move up in weight or I’m definitely doing something wrong.’ I was definitely doing something wrong. I thought eating Double Quarter Pounders with Big Mac sauce wasn’t that bad, but I guess it was.” he told Bloody Elbow.
The bad eating habits still pop up here and there though. In an interview with ESPN, Masvidal confessed to stress eating when the UFC 244 bout was in jeopardy after Diaz tested positive for a drug test. Upon hearing the news for the first time, he ended up downing “two full pizzas with pineapple and jalapeño, plus a side of hot fries and a soda” and had to be rescued by his team, who took his credit cards and removed UberEats from his phone.
Short notice training camp for UFC 251
True to his Gamebred nickname, Masvidal stepped up on six-days notice to face UFC welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman, at UFC 251, when Gilbert Burns had to drop out following a positive COVID-19 test. Masvidal, however, had been training throughout the pandemic, getting ready just for a moment like this.
During the lockdown, Masvidal’s longtime boxing coach, Paulino Hernandez, was there keeping the welterweight fighter sharp with his hands. “I said I’m going to train always, every day, all day, no excuses, he told MMA Junkie. “We work out literally at all times of the day. If I’m up at one o’clock in the morning, we might get in 30, 40 minutes of pads and just one technique in practice. So, from a mental place, I’m at a very good place.”
Still, six-days notice is still six-days notice, especially when it comes to the weight cut. After the Usman bout, Masvidal revealed that he weighed 191 pounds when the fight was made official, meaning he had to cut over 20 pounds during fight week.
“I signed on the dotted line, whether it be 6 days, 6 hours, 6 months. When you sign the dotted line your first obligation to yourself and to your opponent is to make weight,” he told Helwani, though he admitted that it was a tougher-than-usual weight cut. “I was hurting man, but I was never worried, I’m a dog man. Once I sign that dotted line, I’m gonna make the weight, I got a reputation to keep.”
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