July 8, 2019

UFC 239: Jorge Masvidal and the Consequences of Trash Talk

By Raphael Garcia

Jorge Masvidal went into UFC 239 with a plan, and that plan was simple: to beat up Ben Askren. That plan was realized when he knocked out the former ONE Championship and Bellator MMA champion in less than five seconds, smashing his face with a sickening jumping knee, and following up with punches until he was pulled off by the referee. Now the conversation has shifted to the sportsmanship -- or lack thereof -- in Masvidal’s celebration and post-fight comments. But regardless of which side of the conversation you fall upon, you have to recognize that this is the fight business, and no one should be too shocked about what occurred.

Askren is a professional fight picker. If life was a video game, his ability to antagonize people would be maxed out. It’s what he’s done his whole career, and it’s one of the promotional abilities that have helped him get into this position in the sport. Askren is the type of fighter that Dana White and the UFC loves, someone that can build a fight up in a manner that gets fans excited and more interested in watching. That buildup is one of the factors that made Saturday’s bout such a compelling contest. But there is another side of this conversation that deserves consideration: the fact that Masvidal wasn’t here for any of it.


The entire time that Askren continued to talk, it seemed that there was a storm brewing on Masvidal's end. We’ve seen this kind of energy from him before, such as when he got into a backstage brawl with Leon Edwards, another fighter that used trash talk to push himself into a more prominent position. Masvidal had a problem with Edwards' words, and had no problem throwing strikes backstage. Looking back across Masvidal’s career, he has never been one to give viewers quotables to try to turn them into fans; he's gotten fans by meeting the worst trash talk with composure until the bell sounds, after which he lets his rage out all over his opponent.

“I wish the referee would have tripped on his way to breaking it up because I think he deserved one more,” Masvidal said to BT Sports after his win. “I gave him what he deserved and I’m glad I did him like that.”


Throughout combat sports we’ve seen many examples of fighters being outspoken and brash in the hopes of creating a big cash moment at some point in their careers. Conor McGregor, Chael Sonnen, Tito Ortiz, and Floyd Mayweather are just some of the names that adorn this list. They recognize trash talking is a method to building business, and don't care about crossing lines of decency in order to do so. During their fight at UFC 229, McGregor was captured on camera telling Khabib Nurmagomedov that the things he said in the lead-up to their bout were “just business,” but Nurmagomedov is another one for whom trash talk is never just business. He showed that to McGregor just like Masvidal showed it to Askren.

Were the shots after the knee not needed? Was the celebration as Askren laid motionless on the mat over the top? Those questions are left for us to answer. But for Masvidal, this is the fight game, and to him, the punches, as well as the taunting that followed, were "super necessary":
“There’s not too many people I’ve disliked. I have over 50 pro fights and he’s one of them. He talked about my manhood, talked about my culture, my ethnicity...Where do we draw the line? Why do certain people get to do stuff online? So you can do anything? Everything is cool before a fight, you're allowed to do and say whatever you want, like other fighters are not doing, talking about people’s religions, wife, even kids. That’s cool? But after a fight I’m not allowed to showboat and rub it in your face so you, and guys like you can see it and be like, ‘maybe I don't talk so much [expletive], because when I cross one of these real [expletive], they’re going to make me pay for it, man. They’re going to embarrass the [expletive] out of me.’”

That’s a thought that should stick with whomever Jorge Masvidal fights next. If they decide to delve into trash talk, they will have to recognize that his way of responding translates differently, in the form of pure violence within the Octagon. Ben Askren can certainly attest to that.

UFC 239
Ben Askren vs. Jorge Masvidal: Jorge Masvidal def. Ben Askren via knockout (flying knee) at 0:05 of Round 1.

UFC 239: Jones vs. Santos took place July 6, 2019 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click HERE for more UFC 239 Post-Fight Analysis


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