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Exclusive: Jorge Masvidal on His Wild Ride From the Streets to the Main Event

Jorge Masvidal Strikeforce photos KJ Noons
(‘Gamebred’ uglies up KJ Noons at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum. Photo via ESPN.)

By Jonathan Shrager

Jorge Masvidal‘s MMA career has taken him to Russia, Japan, Costa Rica, and the Playboy Mansion — not bad for a guy who got his start in bare-knuckle fights in his native Miami. Now riding back-to-back victories over Billy Evangelista and KJ Noons under the Strikeforce banner, Masvidal has been honored with a lightweight title shot against Gilbert Melendez at the promotion’s upcoming card on December 17th in San Diego. We got in touch with Masvidal recently to learn more about his streetfighting pedigree, his unconventional fighter’s lifestyle, and why “The Mansion” isn’t as exciting as you’d think. Enjoy…

CAGEPOTATO.COM: I wanted to start off by discussing your streetfighting past. Was it those underground brawls that made you consider the sport of MMA as a profession?

JORGE MASVIDAL: No. Before I did the streetfighting I knew I wanted to do MMA. I knew I wanted to get paid. I didn’t want to be a streetfighting king or nothing. I wanted to fight the best in the world and get paid for my talent. I knew since I was a kid at the age of 13 or 14 that I wanted to fight. I wanted to box, but I was also in love with wrestling. I wish I could have done both, but I realized I could only be competitive in one of them. Then MMA came along and I knew that was the one. At the time I was streetfighting, there wasn’t really an amateur MMA scene. I did that when I was about 18 or 19. They asked me to do it and I was like ‘why not?’

Having been involved in something so raw as backyard brawling, you must experience relatively little fear stepping into the regulated industry of MMA?

Oh yeah, big time. In MMA, I don’t got to worry about getting stabbed, or nobody shooting at me if I beat them up. That’s a big positive. In a streetfight, anything can happen at any random moment. If someone gets upset in the crowd, or you’ve caused somebody to lose money, they can pull a knife or a gun on you. You always get an adrenaline-rush when you step into an MMA cage, but it’s nothing like the concerns you have when streetfighting, when you’re worried about avoiding weapons.

Before your permanent transition into MMA, you competed in one professional boxing match. Why wasn’t boxing the right fit for you?

I’d already fought a couple MMA bouts when I had the boxing match, and the boxing just wasn’t paying me well at the time. I landed a decent deal with Bodog which guaranteed me good money compared to what I was receiving in boxing. In boxing, I was getting something like 700 or 800 bucks, whereas in MMA, I was being offered $20,000 win or lose. So it was no-brainer. Had boxing offered a few grand more, I would have pursued that. But the problem was, my lack of amateur boxing experience meant that I would have had to put together 15 to 20 fights before I could make some decent money. So it was a financial thing, but also, at the end of the day, I love MMA more than boxing. My first two loves were wrestling and boxing, so to combine them is perfect, and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Did you earn any money for your streetfights against Kimbo’s protégé Ray, the brawls which helped you rise to prominence online?

Nah man. I just did them. I just went out there to fight and compete. I was having some trouble getting some fights. I never realized [the backyard fights] would get me so much exposure, because I’d been involved in tons of previous streetfights. Kimbo was already famous by that time.

How did Kimbo know to get in contact with you to organise the brawls? Are you still in contact with Kimbo and do you have a good rapport with him?

Well, Kimbo and me trained at the same gym, and Kimbo’s manager Mike Imber contacted me offering me the scrap so I accepted gladly. That was that. I bump into Kimbo at local MMA shows in Miami, and I get on really well with him. He’s a tremendous dude. We both come from a similar fighting background so we have similar mindsets.

There’s something perversely compelling about watching fights unfold in an uncontrolled environment. This phenomenon is proven by the stats: Your fight vs Ray has 660,000 YouTube views. The highest amount of views for one of your professional fights is 71,000 vs Yves Edwards. The biggest irony being that the latter actually showcases a knockout.

That shows exactly what it is. I’ve achieved so many more accomplishments in MMA than beating up Ray in a streetfight, and people don’t even know about it. People don’t know I beat Yves and other top guys. But everybody has their own opinion.

Any chance we’ll see a return of the big hairstyle you were sporting back then?

Well, maybe when I move up a weight class to welterweight. Right now I couldn’t make lightweight if I kept the hair. When my hair’s wet, it weighs a lot. I thank my moms for my good hair. And also the long hair wasn’t practical for training. But I did like rocking the long hair, it helped pick up chicks.

How about the long jean shorts? Would those be authorized by Scott Coker for a Strikeforce fight?

Haha, no, I wouldn’t get away with that. There’s too much wrestling involved in MMA so they’d rip right open. They’d also hamper my mobility. For a streetfight, I dressed appropriately, but for MMA I wear those tight spandex shorts. Maybe I could wear the street attire heading into the cage, but not to compete.

I recently interviewed your boy Isaac Kesington (AKA Genghis Con), and given that you are one of his principal MMA muses, you were the topic of much discussion. For one thing, he revealed your love of a good fiesta. How do you have the ability to both work hard and play hard?

Yeah, Isaac’s my partner man. Hell yeah, I like to party. Me and my great friend Alexis Vila are always training and partying hard. It goes hand in hand. I really don’t drink alcohol excessively. But I like to hang out. Not necessarily in a club, but after a long day of training I just like to unwind and take my mind off fighting. Maybe hit the stripclub. You can ask Isaac, he has seen me do it a million times. I’ll party ’til 4 or 5 in the morning, and then be up at 8.30 to get to the gym by 9. I’ve been doing it for a long time, so it doesn’t affect me much.

Isaac assured me that prior to the KJ Noons you began to take training camp more seriously.

Yes. Well, my coaches were riding me about it. My nutritionist, she wanted me to get some more sleep. But the problem is I kind of have insomnia. I only need five hours and I’m good. But my coaches wanted me to get like eight hours. Even if I’m at home, I’ll stay up playing video games. I’m just active at night.

And you’re apparently fond of junk food?

Oh, of course man. I’m a big McDonalds and Burger King fan. If it wasn’t for my weight I’d be eating that stuff all day long. It keeps my weight up but performance-wise, I feel great. I’d eat a double quarter-pounder with Big Mac sauce and go and kick anybody’s ass. Until I was 23 or 24 I used to live off junk food. It was funny because when I fought Ray the first time, I was actually halfway through the McDonalds drive-thru when I got the call offering the scrap. I ate half my burger, then I was good to go. And I finished the other half of my burger following the fight.

Does your nutrionist allow you to have the odd McDonalds here and there during training camp, or are you cutting it out completely?

I can’t say completely man. You know, I might have to blame you on this because you’ve brought up McDonalds so much during this interview that I might have to go and get some [laughs]. I try to diet strictly Monday to Friday and eat the food I’m supposed to for training, but during the weekends, when we train less sessions, it’s tougher so I might get me a double cheeseburger during the downtime. If I eat junk food I tend to burn it off by training hard, and that’s the difference. And if I’ve had a tough practice, nothing will pick me up like a good old-fashioned dessert. Yo, wait up, I got your countryman Brad Pickett here.

(Jorge puts me on the phone to Brad, who fought Renan Barao at UFC 138. Brad jovially offers to translate Jorge’s English for me before passing me back to Masvidal.)

Ok, moving on from food to women. Isaac informs me that you are a bit of a ladies man?

Who don’t love women? I love women as much as the next man. Ah man, Isaac is talking me up there, trying to help me out. I mean, we go out and try. Isaac is handy with the ladies too. That’s why he and I have always got along so well since the first day we met. I took him to my spots to party and he loved it so we clicked right away. It’s like I’ve known him for years because we are into the same things.

You’re one of the few lucky fighters that had the opportunity to fight at the Playboy Mansion. Can you reveal to us the post-fight shenanigans than ensued following your TKO victory of Matt Lee back in 2007? That must have been a wild afterparty.

Im’a tell you man like I’ve told everyone, and it’ll burst your bubble. I’d heard all the rumors about the Mansion so I thought we were going to have a blast but it wasn’t that good, because the ratio was like 20-25 dudes per every chick. We chilled and ate some food, but the girl:guy ratio just wasn’t right so we ended up leaving to hit some spots out in LA. I saw Hugh [Hefner] sitting in the crowd and I would have loved to chat with him. But he was busy with his chicks and his wives doing his thing. The cage-girls were hot but I’m not sure whether they were actually bunnies.

Well thanks a lot for your time today Jorge, it’s been a pleasure.

Hey no, thank you man.

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Waldizzle- December 6, 2011 at 11:38 pm
Really good interview! ty Cage Potato!
Todd M- December 6, 2011 at 9:46 pm
I love Masvidal and I think he has the best nick name in all of fighting, especially after watching him and that Ray fella go at it like pitbulls.
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XENOPHON- December 6, 2011 at 9:33 am
Yeah, me too. He seems to upfront. Maybe he has yet to reach the level of stardom of the few, the few who have to tower to promoters, managers, and legal-contractual constraints.
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as for Jonathan Shrager - good piece, CP should use it for training to their young staff of newbies. Only critic, too much time spent on fast food. We got the point, and is sounds like Georgie needs to grow up a notch and focus on his professional discipline a bit.
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I don't know how old he is, nor do I care. If he loses his fight, it will be the first thing, that and the partying that goes.
Me likey- December 6, 2011 at 8:21 am
i like it when a fighter gives honest answers and do not come with the scripted shit that managers tell them to say.
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