UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal is finally here, as UFC brings the best MMA fights on the globe to Fight Island in the United Arab Emirates with a stacked pay-per-view card that includes three world championship bouts.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with Megan Olivi for ESPN MMA about the welterweight championship main event at "Fight Island" between 170-pound champion Kamaru Usman and the man the WWE legend himself crowned UFC's B.M.F. champion, Jorge Masvidal.
The Rock spoke about having ties with the fellow Miami, Florida native that go back to their Southern Florida roots and how Masvidal, who famously fought on the under card of one of Kimbo Slice's viral back yard fights during the early YouTube days, is a legend in the area.
During the interview, "The Great One" also touched on timing being an important factor that has contributed to the growing boom of success the 17-year MMA veteran has enjoyed as of late.
Heading into UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi, Masvidal took the fight on short-notice and successfully cut over 20-pounds in under a week to be eligible to challenge for the title.
This was all after flying himself out to UFC Fight Island in the U.A.E. and passing multiple COVID-19 tests once he finally came to terms with the MMA industry leader and ended his lengthy public negotiation battle with the UFC so that he could fill-in for a world championship opportunity.
Since his aforementioned B.M.F. title fight victory over Nate Diaz, the UFC record-setting five-second flying-knee knockout of Ben Askren and "3-piece and a soda" post-fight brawl with Leon Edwards after shockingly knocking out Darren Till in his home country of England -- all inside of one year (2019) of his near-20-year MMA career -- Masvidal is enjoying a surge in popularity that is unbelievably rare for someone to finally reach after almost two decades in a sport.
The Rock spoke at length during his discussion with Olivi about why he feels Masvidal finally got over the casual-fan-hump and established himself as a tried-and-true, real deal mega-star so late in his MMA career.
Featured below are some of the highlights, as well as the complete video archive, of Megan Olivi's ESPN MMA interview with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson ahead of the UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal pay-per-view on Saturday, July 11, 2020.
On having ties to Jorge Masvidal going back to Miami:
"Jorge and I, we have ties going back to Miami. I’ve been in Miami, South Florida since I was 18 years old. I played for the University of Miami — best school in the country! But that’s besides the point."
On "the legend of Jorge Masvidal":
"Also, the legend of Jorge Masvidal is very real down in Miami. He started in street fighting but then also honed his skills. So yes, he’s been around a very long time. He’s done a lot of these rodeos, but I think something very interesting happened, and the fans felt this as well. The company felt this too as well, and I think everybody around Jorge felt this."
On changing the way people perceive him and how timing played an important factor in him gaining so much momentum after being in the game for so long:
"It’s like when somebody makes a distinct decision [that] the world views me in one way [and] I want them to view me and interpret me now in a different way. There’s a few things that have to happen. So, mentally he changed. When his mentality changed, his energetic shift changed, and then physically it all changed, and it all just came together. I think [the] timing of it too, because timing is everything. Especially, as you know, when it comes to things like this. Especially in sports. Timing came together great. I think the world was ready for this iteration of Jorge Masivdal and this awakening, if you will, and the bottom line is the guy went out and proved it."
Watch Megan Olivi's complete pre-UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal interview with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, which also features a cameo appearance from his young daughter, via the video below.
Sign up for ESPN+ to enable yourself the ability to order the first event at the heavily-advertised "UFC Fight Island" location, as UFC 251: Usman vs. Masvidal takes place tonight at the Flash Forum on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
In addition to the Usman-Masvidal title fight main event, the PPV card also features two additional UFC world championship bouts, as well as fights featuring former UFC women's strawweight champion Rose Namajunas and "Dancing with the Stars" veteran Paige VanZant.
— Matt Boone (@MattBoone1984) July 12, 2020
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Do you live in #Miami, #Florida?
Have you heard of "THE LEGEND OF #JORGEMASVIDAL?"
If you haven't, hear it from @TheRock before #UFC251 on #FightIsland w/@GamebredFighter challenging @USMAN84kg for #UFC title (#MMATwitter) (#UFCFightIsland)
WATCH HERE: https://t.co/JAjNa1DthH pic.twitter.com/Qdk9JsOgbl
— Matt Boone (@MattBoone1984) July 12, 2020