It to be March 16, 2019, and also London"s O2 Arena to be packed for a UFC fight Night. Darren Till, a well-known local fighter native Liverpool, was facing Jorge Masvidal in the key event. Till to be favored to beat Masvidal and then challenge Ben Askren, who remained in attendance, because that a shot in ~ the welterweight title.
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But to plan -- and Masvidal"s job -- took a dramatic revolve that night. It was a revolve that ultimately led Masvidal come Saturday"s UFC 261 main event in Jacksonville, Florida, whereby he will acquire his second crack at champion Kamaru Usman.
There was nothing around how that fight began in London that suggested Masvidal was destined for stardom. Masvidal raced across the Octagon and delivered one illegal absent to Till"s groin in the opening seconds, pausing the bout virtually immediately after that started. A few seconds after activity resumed, the powerful Till floored Masvidal with a straight left hand.
The UFC will hold a complete crowd in ~ UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida, where 3 title fights -- headlined by welterweight champ Kamaru Usman defending against Jorge Masvidal -- will certainly play the end in former of 15,000 fans. Women"s strawweight champ Zhang Weili and also flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko likewise defend their belts.
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UFC 261: Usman vs. Masvidal• Saturday, April 24, VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, Florida• main card: 10 p.m. ET, PPV• Prelims: 8 p.m. ET on 2175forals.com/2175forals.com+• at an early stage prelims: 6 p.m. ET on 2175forals.com2/2175forals.com+
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To many, this to be just exactly how the struggle was meant to unfold. Till, ranked No. 3 through the UFC, was coming turn off his only professional loss, to champion Tyron Woodley six months earlier. Masvidal, ranked No. 11, was coming off 2 consecutive losses and was 4-5 in his ahead nine. That hadn"t combated in 16 months, during which time that participated in a fact TV show and reevaluated his career. Masvidal was usually viewed as a stepping stone for Till to get another title shot.
But by the time Masvidal left the arena that night, his losing streak and also relative anonymity would certainly be actors aside. He would take the very first steps toward ending up being one that the UFC"s biggest draws and also one the its most recognizable personalities. And it wasn"t just since he came ago to hit Till the end in the second round.
People that were over there tell the story that a fighter who displayed grit inside the cage and street cred -- or reckless behavior, depending upon who"s request -- after ~ the bout as soon as emotions boiled over into an altercation with Leon Edwards, a Birmingham, England, resident who won top top the undercard. It to be a night that produced a brand-new star, a video clip that is the fourth-most watched in the background of 2175forals.com"s MMA YouTube channel and a phrase coined by Masvidal that has taken source in MMA pop culture.
Editor"s note: The following quotes were gathered indigenous interviews carried out recently and also some dating earlier closer to the event. Some estimates were edited because that brevity and clarity.
Darren Till to reduce Jorge Masvidal 10 seconds into their bout, but he to be unable to finish him, and he later on paid the price.Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa gmbh via Getty ImagesTill do the efforts to acquire Masvidal"s earlier after knocking him down, yet Masvidal had the ability to scramble come his feet and land part solid shots later in the round.
Mark Goddard, referee: Darren came out supervisor quick. Ns think it to be a directly left initially that more caught Jorge turn off balance and going backwards. But he put him under really early. And again, true to form, what"s the an initial thing Jorge does? Smile and stick his tongue out. Together if come say, "Thanks for that, girlfriend reminded me I"m in a fight."
Masvidal: i wasn"t hurt in ~ all. The turned the lamp off, and also then turned them back on just as quick. That was among those speed knockdowns, whereby it it s okay you woken up. Ns felt great when ns got ago up to my feet. Ns wasn"t wobbled or anything, so ns was may be to get right ~ it.
Dan Hardy, commentator and also fighter: It was a really hyperactive fight that was going earlier and forth. The stress and anxiety in the arena was pretty high. It to be an environment that had actually you hanging on the leaf of her seat v every punch.
Forty seconds into the 2nd round, Till accidentally poked Masvidal in his left eye. The fight when again was paused and the doctor came in to examine the eye, however Masvidal didn"t complain around not being able come see, so the activity was enabled to continue. V two minutes left in the round, Masvidal switched to southpaw, floated a right jab and also then came over the optimal with a large left hand that came down on Till"s jaw. Till might have shed consciousness at that moment and also began to autumn backwards as Masvidal landing a pair more shots throughout a chaotic rush. Till"s head violent bounced off the mat, and also he laid over there unconscious when Masvidal walked around the cage looking in ~ the stunned crowd.
Goddard: I currently knew the Darren to be out. You can tell by his arm. The goes stiff as a board while tho standing.
Obviously, I"m close up door the difference an extremely quickly because I currently knew. I"ll shot to catch him if i can. I could tell simply by the human body shape and also the way he was falling that you"re not bouncing ago from this. I"m glad i did, because Jorge to be on peak of him, too, at sight quick. He"s simply doing his job, right? It"s the referee"s project to get in there and also separate castle in the warmth of the moment.
Hardy: Darren"s family was end my left shoulder. I remember the arena just falling quiet at the knockout. Once Masvidal"s beat landed, he in reality walked towards the comment booth and also pointed in ~ Paul Felder and also I, and also said, "You knew I could do it."
Four of his previous 5 losses were by separation decision, for this reason Masvidal wanted to stop leaving things in the hand of the judges in London.James Chance/Getty ImagesAfter hardy interviewed Masvidal in the Octagon, it was time for Masvidal"s postfight tv interview. Usually, battle aircraft walk to a workdesk on the television collection to talk with analysts. Yet on this night, among the analysts was Michael Bisping, who had a linguistic confrontation v Masvidal two years earlier in the battle aircraft hotel prior to UFC 217.
Laura Sanko, UFC reporter: in ~ the time, there was a little bit of worry that can not be the ideal dynamic to have actually there. Lock said, "We"re going to have actually Jorge walk to friend instead, Laura, and also we"ll throw to girlfriend live." i was type of secretly excited, since in those certain situations, i don"t usually obtain the main-event winner.
As Masvidal was doing his interview, his eyes locked on Edwards, who was wade behind the cameraperson.
Sanko: Normally, the interview area is positioned whereby we"re the end of the main circulation of traffic. There"s usually about 30 to 40 feet between where ns stand and also where world would it is in walking in any type of sort the corridor or hallway situation. But for every little thing reason, the method the O2 Arena was collection up, I had actually the shallowest set I"ve ever had in my life. Ns was ideal on height of the backdrop, and also the camera was ideal on height of me. And so, when Leon walked past and said something come him, generally that person would it is in really much away, however he was right up top top us. I would certainly say probably 8 feet to 10 feet, maximum.
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Jorge for sure heard him. And I thought, this can get interesting. They can chirp ago and forth a little bit. I experienced Jorge"s eyes relocate away native me and start relocating past me.