Jorge Masvidal entered UFC 261 wearing a T-shirt with a message, apparently calling for the freedom of his former training partner, ex-MMA fighter Alexis Vila.
Vila is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence after being convicted of second-degree murder in 2019, as part of a gruesome kidnapping, torture and murder plot at the behest of a supermarket chain owner.
The shirt was plainly visible in Masvidal's walk-in, reading "#FreeAlexisVila." At one point, Masvidal lifted the shirt to the camera to make it more readable.
The Cuban-born Vila held a career record of 15-7, competing as a flyweight in promotions including Bellator and Titan FC. He served as Masvidal's training partner while they were both fighting out of Miami.
Jury found Alexis Vila coordinated gruesome murder
According to the Miami Herald, the murder that Vila was convicted of assisting originated from a long-running affair between businessman Camilo Salazar and the wife of supermarket Manuel Marin.
Prosecutors reportedly claimed Marin responded to the affair by recruiting Vila, whom he had helped defect from Cuba. Vila in turn recruited an ex-con named Roberto Issac to carry out the kidnapping and murder of Salazar.
Former MMA fighter Ariel Gandulla reportedly testified that he was duped into helping Isaac kidnap Salazar off the street. The men held Salazar for hours before turning him over to Marin. Salazar's body was later found in an isolated field, with evidence of a vicious beating, his throat slit and his genitals torched.
Gandulla reportedly testified that Vila was instrumental in arranging the job, but was training in Las Vegas when the plot was carried out. Prosecutors relied on phone records placing Isaac and Marin at the scene, with Vila exchanging calls.
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