UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman paid tribute to challenger Jorge Masvidal following Saturday night’s UFC 251 main event.
Usman retained his title in impressive fashion defeating Masvidal by unanimous decision on ‘Fight Island’ in Abu Dhabi in what was one of the most highly anticipated bouts of 2020.
Masvidal was a late replacement for Gilbert Burns after the Brazilian tested positive for Covid-19 and was forced to pull out of the bout.
The challenge was always going to be difficult for Masvidal, coming in to fight one of the UFC’s most dominant champions on just six days notice and Usman was quick to praise his challenger after their clash.
“Gamebred (Masvidal) is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now, so I had to switch gears preparing for him on six days’ notice,” he told UFC’s Jon Anik immediately after the win.
“All these guys are preparing for one guy and that’s me, at the top of the mountain.
“I trained for Gilbert (Burns), I had a different game plan. Gamebred is tough, he landed some elbows from the bottom and he didn’t quit.
“I knew Jorge is tough, I’ve always said it minus all the trash talking and all the things going on, Jorge is a tough guy and I give him credit for that.”
There had been some animosity between the pair in the last few months, with Masvidal and Usman infamously exchanging words at Superbowl’s radio row in January however they appeared to bury the hatchet after their battle.
Masvidal and Usman embraced after the judges decision, with the Miami native outlining that he wanted to ‘run it back’ with the champion at some stage in the future.
Elsewhere on the card, Alexander Volkanovski defeated challenger Max Holloway to retain his featherweight title in what was a very closely fought split decision victory.
Earlier in the evening Petr Yan claimed the vacant bantamweight title in an extremely impressive final round stoppage of former featherweight champion Jose Aldo.