The Ultimate Fighting Championship's next trip to Tennessee looks like it's in for a serious upgrade.
According to a report from Brazil's Globo.com published on Sunday, the UFC is in the process of finalizing a high-stakes welterweight contest between surging contenders Demian Maia and Jorge Masvidal Per the Globo story, the bout, should it become official, would headline the UFC Fight Night card on April 22 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville (latest odds).
The April 22 bill had previously come under heavy criticism from MMA and fans when the card was unveiled with a slated headliner between featherweight veteran Cub Swanson and “Ultimate Fighter 22” alum Artem Lobov.
Masvidal, 32, has won three straight in the Octagon since just last July. Since dropping a pair of controversial split decision losses to former UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson and Lorenz Larkin, the American Top Team product has ripped through Ross Pearson, Jake Ellenberger and most recently, Donald Cerrone this past January. Since his blowout win over “Cowboy,” Masvidal has been active in the media, calling out both Maia as well as fellow contender Neil Magny.
“If Maia’s the dude that will get me closer to the title, bring that dude on. I’ll break his s---,” Masvidal told BJPenn.com in late January. “He’s not going to take me down. People were shocked with my striking with 'Cowboy,' people will be shocked with my wrestling [against Maia]. He has wrestling and jiu-jitsu, but he won’t outwrestle me. So if Demian Maia wants to get that ass whooped, I’m here, man.” Not long after he started his call out of Maia, Masvidal accused the former UFC middleweight title challenger of ducking a fight with him.
“Demian Maia didn’t want this. They offered him the fight, and he didn’t want it,” Masvidal told MMAJunkie Radio. “I guess he wants to sit out. So I want to fight these top-10 dudes. Give me the toughest dudes you’ve got.”
The 39-year-old Maia has won six straight in increasingly dominant fashion since his February 2014 loss to Rory MacDonald. Following that defeat, the grappling all-star took wins over Alexander Yakovlev, Ryan LaFlare, Neil Magny, Gunnar Nelson and Matt Brown, and then this past August, choked out former UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit in less than four minutes.
On Feb. 2, Maia wrote a Facebook post in excess of 1200 words, explaining his current professional and promotional goals, whether or not he would wait for a UFC welterweight title shot and what happened to a slated bout with Masvidal.
“I would fight anyone [at welterweight] for a belt right now, interim or linear, and when we got the Masvidal fight offered we explained our reasons for being frustrated and wanting to wait for a Title Shot [sic], how the proposed card could impact us financially, but said we would discuss it and come up with a decision,” Maia wrote.