Masvidal takes unusual path to title shot

Jorge Masvidal has taken the long route to a major title shot

Jorge Masvidal is thankful for the little things in life. One of those little things that the Strikeforce lightweight contender is ever-so-grateful for is that his next bout will be held in San Diego and not in some small town where it's last call at 10 p.m.

Masvidal, who challenges champion Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce lightweight title in a Showtime-televised bout on Saturday at the Valley View Casino Center, loves the opportunity that fighting in a major city brings with it.

One thing, though, stands above the others: It won't be hard to find a McDonald's open after midnight.

In addition to being a world-class fighter, he's also a fast-food junkie with the ability, he says, "To shut down one of them Taco Bells."

Masvidal is one of the sport's most unlikely championship contenders. The 27-year-old is 22-6 in a mixed martial arts career that began in 2003, though Saturday's bout is his first major title shot.

He's coming off an impressive victory over K.J. Noons, but his record should be, he notes, much better than it is.

"I've been robbed more often than the 7-Eleven," he says dryly.

He worked out the details for his first fight – Well, not his first real fight – while in the drive through line at McDonald's. The legendary street fighting king, Kimbo Slice, had noticed him working in a Miami, Fla., gym.

Slice was looking for an opponent for his protege, a muscular guy named Ray. He thought of Masvidal and got in touch. Masvidal ordered his Big Mac and drove over to an old lot behind a laundromat to meet a guy significantly bigger, and more muscular, than he.

Masvidal wasn't concerned so much with his opponent as with the crowd of the opponent's friends who were gathered around. They were there to see a beatdown, and a beatdown occurred, but it wasn't who they expected who won.

Masvidal was never much concerned with Ray, and he pummeled him with ease. What concerned him, though, was what a spectator might do.

He began his fighting career not in an elite gym packed with some of the world's finest athletes but in a lot strewn with trash behind a laundromat in Miami, Fla.

"You just don't know, but someone there might have a gun, a knife, anything crazy," said Masvidal, who was only 18 when he fought Ray.

He survived that escapade, as well as a rematch in which he once again won, and soon thereafter turned pro.

Masvidal has won way more than he lost, but never was he as impressive as he was in his last outing, when he systemically took apart and beat down Noons, the former Elite XC welterweight champion.

That performance didn't escape the notice of Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, who called Masvidal's effort "extraordinary."

"To be honest with you, I thought K.J. would win that fight," Coker said. "I was shocked the way Jorge beat him down. He is a complete fighter."

Masvidal is just different than many of them. For one, he's not particularly big on sleep. Give him four hours and he's a happy man. He's often out prowling after midnight, hanging in night clubs, stopping in strip joints, just looking for a place to spend some time and have some fun.

He's not looking for trouble and he's not abusing his body, but he sees no need to hole up in his house just because he has a fight coming up.

"I just can't sleep a lot," he says. "I'm not out partying. I don't drink; I don't smoke. I'm just out hanging with my friends. I only need about four or five hours a sleep a night at most. So if I can't sleep, I might as well be out doing something."

He spends a lot of time in the nation's fast food restaurants. He said, "I'm a humungous fan of McDonald's," putting a significant emphasis on the word "humungous." "I can't tell you how much I love that place. Taco Bell. Rally's. Checker's. I don't know if you have one of those where you are, but let me tell you, that place is awesome."

One of life's pleasures, he says, is a grilled burrito at Taco Bell. But he has so many favorites, it's difficult to remember all of them.

"Wow, that is one of the toughest questions ever," he said, asked his favorite fast-food meals. "There are so many great ones."

He hopes to pull out a win over Melendez, one of the fight game's great ones, not so much to win the title but to prove he, too, is one of the greats.

"I'm not too much into the belt, I'm into beating the best guys in the world," he said. "The belt doesn't mean a lot if a great guy doesn't have it. Gilbert just happens to be a great fighter and that's what I want. Those are the kinds of guys I want to fight, and that's what means something to me. Beating a top guy like that, that means something. That has some impact."

And doing it in a major city like San Diego means something, too.

He can celebrate his win by heading over to Taco Bell and gorging on a few grilled chicken burritos. For Masvidal, that's the good life.

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