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By taking Leon Edwards’ bait, Jorge Masvidal answers his own question on why we love trash talk

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Jorge Masvidal

At last Thursday’s UFC London media day, Jorge Masvidal had a lot to say that struck a nerve within the fight world. The artificial rivalries generated by trash talk are often “stupid,” “corny” and “childish.” He took the media to task for adding accelerant to any little spark, a fair criticism given the full-on embrace of the McGregors and Covingtons of the world, and he questioned why the fans could not “see through the gimmicks” masquerading as personality. In his view, there was plenty of blame to go around, as well as a bill to pay.

“The kids that are seeing this, the future, the 10-year guys from now that are going to be studs, they’re seeing this and some of them are thinking the only way to get a good fight is to talk s-it, call somebody’s mom a f-cking prostitute, say that his country sucks, that his religion ain’t s-it,” Masvidal said. “Let’s fast-forward into it, and that’s what it will all be. It will be WWE. We’re already going to fight, we’re going to test each other’s will. We don’t need everybody talking. Not that everybody needs to be Georges St-Pierre, but it would be cool if everybody was just themselves.”

From a man who has always been uniquely himself, exuding a confident Miami cool, the diatribe came off as positively genuine. Masvidal has always been a fighter’s fighter, someone who stood above the din, yet still stood out through swagger and style.

Forty-six fights into his professional MMA career, that reputation is something close to written in stone, yet it was a little perplexing to see him take the bait that he had so forcefully spoken against just 48 hours earlier.

By now, you’ve seen the video, Masvidal speaking backstage at the O2 Arena with reporter Laura Sanko before turning his attention to Leon Edwards, leading to a confrontation where Masvidal fired off a three-punch combination.

Earlier in the week, Masvidal was adamant he had no interest in engaging with Edwards, who he refused to call by name, referring to him as “the other dude from England,” yet now he has inextricably linked himself to Edwards by his own actions.

He also overshadowed his own win on the same night. Just minutes after stopping Darren Till faster than even former champion Tyron Woodley did, Masvidal obliterated any possibility that his crushing victory would be the talk of the fight world. Instead, it was the post-fight fisticuffs that stole all the headlines and lit up social media.

Prior to Saturday, Edwards’ words toward Masvidal had been fairly moderate. He first called out the American a year ago after a stoppage win over Peter Sobotta.

“The reason why I’m calling for Masvidal is that he isn’t booked and he has said he’ll be back in July,” he said then. “I’m waiting until July so I can get a ranked guy, I’m not going to fight anyone else.”

As callouts go, it was hardly incendiary. Edwards continued lobbying for the fight, later calling Masvidal an “old gun” but that was about as heated as it got. And still, Masvidal managed to go from 0 to 100 last night about as quickly as a Tesla in Ludicrous mode.

Why? Because of trash talk. According to Masvidal, Edwards yelled that he would kick Masvidal’s ass in July, Masvidal challenged him to say it to his face, and within six seconds, Masvidal was throwing punches.

All because of trash talk. The same thing that Masvidal had derided as stupid and corny was suddenly so serious that he was willing to potentially commit an assault for it. This is the second time in recent weeks that trash talk spilled over into real-life scenarios. In early March, Kamaru Usman’s entourage scuffled with Colby Covington in the buffet line of the Palms Casino, although in that case, Usman appeared to be the one trying to keep things from escalating out of control.

Perhaps that was the kind of situation that Masvidal was referring to earlier this week when he said “someone’s going to get killed one day. Somebody’s going to say the wrong s-it to the wrong player, and he’s going to get popped.”

It was an ominous warning that certainly deserves some thought. He clearly has a point that some of this stuff crosses the line. But then he went and crossed the line! And in doing so, he answered his own question on why fans, media and fighters all love trash talk. Those kinds of words are powerless in a vacuum; they only draw strength when their target concedes some deeper meaning. That gives it meaning to the rest of us, too. When words matter, fights matter more. Forty-eight hours after telling us it was all so corny, Masvidal couldn’t turn away from it, couldn’t let it go. And that is why those of us who watch can’t either.

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