Burns was set to face welterweight champion Kamaru Usman at UFC’s first ‘Fight Island’ event, which will be held on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi on 11 July.
But the Brazilian announced on Twitter on Saturday that he had tested positive for Covid-19, writing: “Devastating news, not feeling well but I’m going to win this battle! Stay safe out there! Much love.”
Reports suggest that the fight is likely to be rescheduled, rather than Usman defending his title at UFC 251 against a new challenger.
UFC 251 is set to feature two other championship bouts: Former featherweight titleholder Max Holloway will take on the man who dethroned him, Alexander Volkanovski, in a rematch, while Petr Yan and Jose Aldo are due to fight for the vacant men’s bantamweight belt. The former contest could well be made the new main event.
That said, Usman’s long-time rival Colby Covington – against whom the champion successfully defended his title in December – took to Twitter after the news of Burns’ positive test result, seemingly offering to step in.
Masvidal went 3-0 in 2019, knocking out Liverpool’s Darren Till in London before setting the record for the fastest KO in UFC history against Ben Askren (five seconds) and defeating Nate Diaz via doctor stoppage.
Burns had fought twice in three months this year to usurp Masvidal – who has been locked in a contract dispute with UFC president Dana White – as the No1 contender at 170lbs. Burns defeated compatriot Demian Maia via first-round TKO in March, then dominated former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley for a unanimous decision win in May.
Usman and Burns share the same coach, Henri Hooft, and have trained together on numerous occasions, though the Nigerian-American champion moved camps ahead of UFC 251.