The Anxiety of the Fighter in Limbo

Fightland Blog

By Eugene Robinson

Lightweight contender Jorge Masvidal has got lots of claim to fistic fame -- some good, some not so good. But the one that really irks him is the one that seems to most amuse the rest of us: the whole backyard-fighting thing. That’s how he got his start: beating the crap -- twice -- out of a Kimbo Slice protégé (a fancy word for some dude what hung around Kimbo back when he was a backyard-fighting hero). Videos of those fights became the stuff of YouTube legend. But Masvidal says, with not a small trace of annoyance in his voice, like he’s tired of being known for being illicit, “Nah. I ain’t fighting in backyards no more.”

And he hasn’t. Been way too busy being big time. How big time? Fighting for the Strikeforce championship against Gilbert Melendez back in December. Losing by decision, sure, but only after fighting the entire fight with a broken hand.

Big. Giant. Brass balls.

And they don’t stop there. The 27-year-old Cuban-American with a 23-7 record trains with American Top Team in Florida, which is like saying he goes to Harvard, and has been a professional mixed martial artist since about the time he got out of the backyard way back in 2003. Since then? No fewer than 10 wins by knockout and a magical mystery tour through every fight organization around, from the AFC to the now-defunct Bodog to Bellator and eventually Strikeforce (a perennial second-place finisher to the industry’s 800-pound gorilla, the UFC). Add to this his wins over really top-flight talent and it seems a guarantee that Masvidal will get an invite to the big show.

But life is not as fair as we’d like, so that invitation has not been forthcoming, leaving Masvidal in a sort of limbo. The UFC bought Strikeforce in early 2011 and immediately began raiding their top talent, but contracts were being honored and not everyone has been able to make the jump, Masvidal among them. So, the death spiral. Fights canceled (Masvidal’s November 3 fight against Bobby Green included), fighters complaining about poor communication and paychecks gone missing, all of the agita you find with any failing enterprise that some will survive and some will not. Now word has come down that Strikeforce will be shuttering its doors for good in January, culminating with a card featuring (supposedly) a fight between Masvidal and Pat Healy.

But for Jorge Masvidal the big question mark looms. And while he’s not wandering the streets with a “WILL FIGHT FOR FOOD” sign (yet), you need to understand that until he’s got a fight booked he’s just a really talented but essentially unemployed guy living with a ton of uncertainty about his future. And no real guarantee of any of it working out in his favor. Shit, you need big giant brass balls just to get through even a day of that kind of on-the-edge living.

We recently got a hold of Jorge while he was having a romantic interlude with his fiancée in Key West, Florida. This was after he’d learned about the cancellation of his Strikeforce fight. By text. From a friend. Who’d read about it online.

Fightland: So this article is going to be about the tough times of Jorge Masvidal. And it does not get much tougher than the beaches of Key West. You got it good, my man. Vacations, rings, and things …
Jorge Masvidal
: (Laughs) Well, I’m just here for the day. My girl wanted to bring me down. But I am back to training tomorrow.

Anything. Everything. There are so many fights for me at 155 in the UFC -- well, yeah, I’d like to be there.

Now that Strikeforce is officially done?
Yeah. This whole thing … it’s like we’re on a sinking ship. It’s been slowly going down, down. I mean, I had to hear from a friend through a text that my last fight was canceled. I told him, “Nah. What are you talking about?” I had to look it up online. So I have not heard from Scott (Coker, Strikeforce CEO) or anybody there. But I can’t really recall a time when they would just call us and keep us up to date. As far as fighting was concerned, they did a good job of that, though.

But being in the UFC, the best company in the world, at this point is what needs to happen. I mean, I could fight four times a year, eight- to 12-week notice: time to really prepare for a fight. And my weight class is stacked. Good fights. Make some money. Could take care of myself, my family. I got the holidays coming up. Would like to be able to buy some people Christmas presents, you know? I mean, fighting is what I do, so it would be nice to do it.

Has anybody reached out to you yet?
You. I learn about stuff from the press. Guys like you.

But I love those VICE films. You all do some wild-assed shit. Take me with you next time. I’ll come along and do security for you. I’ll be your bodyguard. I’ll go anywhere. Well, almost anywhere. Maybe not like right in the middle of a war or something.

Shit, the way we live our lives we need security going to the supermarket.
Seriously. Let me know.